I saw it in a theater that was maybe a third full. There was a peculiar amount of trios that kept coming in. Female trios. Why three, and not two or four? I'm not sure, but my best guess is that three makes the ideal number for a "weepie movie support system". That way, when the huddling and crying begins, nobody gets left out. I sat up front to avoid the chatter (it's been my experience that most in-movie commentary comes from the back), but no seat could separate me from the sniffling, and huffing, and churgling that filled-out the ambiance of the theater. I didn't mind. Like screams or laughter, it's part of the theater experience.
But a thought came to me while I sat there taking in the cancer-stricken imagery from the front and the sobbing from the back: Did many of these audience members come here with the intended purpose of having a good cry? Meaning, the way someone may go to a comedy film for a good laugh or to a horror film to feel tense and frightened, do some fans of weepies look forward to the experience of sob-letting? After all, there is a natural high that follows a good cry much in the way there is with a hearty chuckle or a visceral rush.
Though I've never seen it, I realize that Cassavettes' The Notebook is one of this decade's most celebrated weepies. Now, after seeing My Sister's Keeper, I'm (sort of) anxious to watch The Notebook so as to make comparisons between their craftsmanship. Because, don't kid yourself, My Sister's Keeper isn't a movie. It's a narrated slide show with a soundtrack of strummed ukulele and ballads that have the words "Home" and "You" in the title.
The centerpiece to this slide show is when the terminally ill Kate takes us through her scrapbook of memories and good-bye confessions: (paraphrasing) "To Dad, I'm sorry I took away the love of your life" ... "To Jesse, I'm sorry nobody noticed that you were dyslexic" ... "To Anna, I'm sorry I made them hurt you". From here, we're whisked into a doomed-from-the-beginning flashback sequence about Kate's boyfriend Taylor, a fellow cancer patient who she adored more than anything, and who passes away the night after they have sex for the first time. But the coup de grace, the ten-tissue-clincher, is the beach sequence, 'the Final Days of Kate' where all she wants is a last look at the beach, a last look at her brother and sister feeding the seagulls, a last embrace from her mother's arms... all to the tune of that "Feels Like Home" song (how did a Coldplay track not make it into this movie?!?!).
I refuse to believe that Nick Cassavettes' heart was in the wrong place (after all, he watched his father slowly fade away), I just think he's making movies by the book and not from the gut. I wouldn't even be surprised if My Sister's Keeper was test screened with "cry-o-meters" measuring the level of audible sorrow in the crowd. If somebody makes you laugh, the next time around, he or she will just want you to laugh harder. Similar must've been the dilemma for the man who made The Notebook. So, if success is measured by the amount of tears generated, perhaps Nick Cassavettes has succeeded, but he shouldn't kid himself... he didn't do so by making a movie.