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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!