{GHF Blog Hop} Gifted in Reel Life: Those Quirky Red Boots

One of my favorite movies depicting a gifted person is “All About Steve” with Sandra Bullock. (Warning: the movie/trailer is PG-13. Also, this may post may contain spoilers. And, to be fair, the trailer is a terrible representation of the movie. But I digress.)

In the movie, Bullock plays Mary Horowitz, a crossword puzzle constructor (a cruciverbalist – don’t you love that word?) with an awful lot of quirks.

The synopsis from IMDB describes the story as such: 

Crossword puzzle constructor Mary Horowitz (Sandra Bullock) is smart, pretty – and a natural disaster that shakes news cameraman Steve (Bradley Cooper) to the core. Set up on a blind date with Steve, Mary thinks the chemistry is undeniable and just knows she’s found her soulmate. She decides to do anything and go anywhere to be with him. Mary’s escalating infatuation is encouraged by the self-serving actions of news reporter Hartman Hughes (Thomas Haden Church) who enjoys torturing his insolent cameraman at every opportunity. As the news team crisscrosses the country covering breaking news stories, Steve becomes increasingly unhinged as Mary trails them. But when the overzealous Mary becomes embroiled in the news story of the year, Steve and Hartman begin to see her differently. Mary has fallen down a mineshaft and steve feels guilty for knowing its his fault she is down there. Mary manages to get out of the mineshaft and races into the arms of her new odd-ball friends.

When I first heard about the movie, my thoughts were, “Bradley Cooper and Sandra Bullock? Fun romantic comedy? Sure!”

Instead, I found a fairly accurate depiction of a highly gifted woman, living unapologetically in a world that just didn’t get her.

The movie critics and the majority of online reviewers gave this movie an average of 1.5 stars, and had nothing nice to say about the plot or the characters. They saw Mary as a ditsy, emotionally clueless woman looking for love. One reviewer called her referred to her as “intended as the kind of crazy tornado who makes all the normal people reconsider their lives, but just unbelievably irritating in practice”.  The first part of the movie depicts her as a sex-starved woman, desperate for human contact.

Pretty harsh. Are you wondering what I found positive about this movie?

As the movie progressed, I saw in Mary’s character a brilliant, kind, enthusiastic, endlessly optimistic person who is able to see far beyond the horizon that most people look at. I loved Mary’s dialogue in the movie…a constant stream of information and language, banter that few around her appreciate.

Mary tells jokes that only she laughs at. She loves words with a passion, and it pains her when they are used incorrectly, or are misunderstood. She is a walking thesaurus and encyclopedia on just about every subject. She is awkward.  She jumps into the deep end of a relationship with abandon, and doesn’t notice when others don’t follow.

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…sound familiar yet? Or am I the only one who has “The Secret Life of Pronouns” on my bookshelf?

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Mary has a pair of favorite red boots that she wears every day, every where. They don’t make sense to other people. It makes others uncomfortable, somehow, to see Mary wear these ridiculous boots all the time. Why can’t she just wear something normal?

Mary is intense, and this really bothers people, fictional and non-fictional.

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Are you, or your children attached to certain pieces of clothing, a blanket or other item that just feels right? As Mary says when asked why she wears the boots, “Because it makes my toes feel like ten friends on a camping trip, that’s why.”  Don’t let anyone tell you that’s not okay! 

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The depiction of Mary throughout the movie  can be painful to watch.

She is continually mocked, misunderstood, and portrayed to be a crazy stalker who doesn’t understand social nuances. Her good will is taken advantage of for the benefit of others.

There is a scene in which she talks to a group of children about her job. She describes the joy of writing crossword puzzles, but the children can’t get past the fact that she lives with her parents, is single, and doesn’t appear to be very successful. She is ridiculed by a roomful of 10 year olds.

Her relationship skills leave something to be desired. She is placated by her date, Steve, who creates an emergency work situation to get out of his date with her. “Yeah, I wish you could be there with me…” She takes his words seriously, literally and directly to heart. She plans the future with these words.

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One time at the doctor’s office, B asked many questions about a surgery the doctor told her he was performing the following day. She asked him if she could come watch the next one. “Oh sure,” he replied. “You can come watch me any time.”  As she planned the rest of her week around the surgery she was going to get to assist with, I told him that she was going to expect to join him in the OR if he said things like that. She was crushed when he explained that she couldn’t really watch him, and he was just joking. “I’ve never met a kid like her before…” he mused as we left. 


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Mary travels via bus across the country after Steve. While on the bus, she dispenses data and fun details about everything she sees and hears. Her knowledge is extensive, and she loves to share. She doesn’t notice the reaction of the people around her. They are annoyed, frustrated, and just want her to be quiet. The bus driver tricks her into getting off of the bus and strands her at a gas station in the desert.

For talking too much.  For being different.

I’m not good at…silence. ‘Mary doesn’t do quiet’, that’s how my grandmother always said it. ‘What’s that hush?’ she’d holler at a party. ‘It’s Mary about to talk’, then she’d laugh and laugh and laugh. Everybody would…but I knew something they didn’t – that is you keep talking, if you keep on talking, you don’t hear people saying they don’t like you. And if you’re talking, you just might not hear it when some kid…calls you a freak.”

Words can be a great comfort in a world that doesn’t understand you.

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In our household, we have a high volume of long conversations that begin with, “Mom, want to know something?”  There is always a new thought, an idea to consider, or knowledge to share. It’s painful to consider how this would be perceived and reacted to in many venues.

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Along the way, Mary gets involved in various social actions, and demonstrates the depth of her empathy, and ability to see the good in others. She makes friends with people who are also a little off the beaten track, and love her for who she is, red boots and all. As Steve says, “She sees things other people don’t…she doesn’t pretend to be anything she’s not.”

She finds her tribe.

image: Graham Keen

I can’t help myself. I love this movie, I love her character. I relate.

Have you seen this movie? Did you hate it? Love it? What movie characters do you see glimpses of yourself in?

This blog post is part of the Gifted Homeschoolers’ Forum January Blog Hop – Gifted in Reel Life. Please join me in reading the insightful and humorous blogs about how gifted children and adults are portrayed in books and media here, or click the image below! 

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15 thoughts on “{GHF Blog Hop} Gifted in Reel Life: Those Quirky Red Boots

  1. I haven't seen this film; I'll check it out. I appreciate your description of “highly gifted woman, living unapologetically.” I hope all people can live without apology and defense, in the name of ease and fun.

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  2. “Words can be a great comfort in a world that doesn't understand you.” Oh my, yes. I haven't seen this (I'm pathetic at watching movies), but I am additing it to my Netflix!

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  3. 1 – I also love romantic comedies. 2 – I would love for people to be able to say this about me – “She sees things other people don't…she doesn't pretend to be anything she's not.” 3 – I'm putting this movie on my list. 🙂 Thanks!!

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  4. I love Sandra Bullock but somehow this never came up on my radar. Shame on me! My heart broke reading the “I'm not good at silence…” bit. That could be my daughter as an adult. Definitely need to check it out, thanks for sharing!

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  5. I'm not sure what I think here. This sounds like exactly the kind of movie I'd like – someone refusing to be something they're not, never giving up, and people coming to appreciate that after all… But then I realize that this sounds an awful lot like me, and I didn't enjoy growing up as a Mary enough to want to see it replayed… But then, knowing Mad Natter is coming up the same way I did, that same intensity, same chatterbox, same giving 110% to everything… Maybe I should.

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  6. I have not seen this movie and, judging by your great review, it is one that I would enjoy. And I like your advice to Care not to watch it on a day when you are feeling vulnerable but to save it for a “take me for who I am day”!

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