Reflecting on Friendship (…in life and in film)

A few weeks back I finished reading ‘The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl‘ by Belle de Jour. Amongst a variety of other things, the book had me reflecting on the nature of friendship and on the type of friend that I am (or think that I am). Belle has a very close group of friends and she ponders the social danger that comes from knowing your friends almost as well as you know yourself. In her own words…

‘There is always a danger that by knowing too much about each other, all useful conversational skills will be lost. Only with people you’ve known since puberty can you be entertained by:

‘Remember the…’ Vague hand gesture.
‘Yes, just like in the movie.’
‘Oh god! And the arm thing B used to do.’
Random Star Wars quote.
Reference to mid-1990s politics.
Satisfied silence, or fits of inexplicable giggles for half an hour.

I’ve also enjoyed many conversations with close friends which run along similar lines to this – as I’m sure everyone has. That wonderful feeling of warmth and security offered by friendship and its shared experiences had me thinking about what I’d be prepared to do for a friend. To give myself some sort of benchmark for self-analysis, I thought that it would be useful to reflect on the range and depth of different types of friendship in a random subset of movies.

For some reason ‘The Big Chill‘ was the first movie that sprang to mind. If you’re not familiar with the story, basically a whole bunch of college friends reunite many years later for a funeral and end up spending a weekend together at the house of Harold (Kevin Kline) and Sarah (Glenn Close). They spend their time catching up and discussing where ‘it all went wrong or right’. Anyway, one of the characters (Meg) is desperate for a child and she decides to ask one of the men in the group to ‘help her out’. Pick of the crop is apparently Harold, and Sarah consents to them sleeping together. Now that’s a really lovely way for Sarah to help her friend, but I’m sorry I just could not be THAT good a friend. I’d be happy to offer support and talk through the range of options with Meg, but allowing her to sleep with my husband…no I’m sorry, I don’t think that would be happening.

In ‘Thelma & Lousie‘, what starts out as a fun road trip quickly gets out of hand after Thelma (Geena Davis) is attacked, with Louise (Susan Sarandon) killing the man involved. The two women are then officially ‘on the run’. Evading police and committing further crimes along the way, the two women learn a lot about themselves, the nature of freedom and their relationships with men. They eventually find themselves the target of a high speed police chase which forces them to the very brink of an uncrossable canyon. Staying true to their vow of ‘sticking together’, the women decide to ‘keep going’, and with that they drive off the edge of the cliff. Look I’m all for finding independence and standing by your decisions (and your friends), but faced with the choice of driving off a cliff to certain death, or taking my chances with the law, I’ll choose the law thank you very much as I’m quite fond of living.

Friends

Andy’s (Anne Hathaway’s) friends in ‘The Devil Wears Prada‘ feel that they no longer get the attention that they’re used to ever since Andy started her new (and in the long-term, completely fabulous) job. Yeah, what a way to be supportive guys! As far as I can tell Andy still manages to catch up with her friends as often as she can, and she generously provides them with awesome goodies from her work. If Andy was my friend, I’d spend less time whinging about never seeing her and instead make the most of the time that she was able to spare (or perhaps this sentiment could be stated more eloquently – You go girl!!). Life is about priorities, and sometimes in life career comes first, especially if it can lead to something even more amazing. (On a side note, I wonder whether the end of the book would bother me as much as the end of the movie did?).

Bridget Jones‘ (Renee Zellweger) is supported by her surrogate ‘urban family’ of friends (a concept that I really, really love). These are the type of friends that are there when you need them, who are happy to share a drink or two, with which you can share and obsess over every minute detail of your life, but who also know exactly when they should give you time alone (after all no one likes people that over-stay their welcome). This kind of arrangement sounds pretty good to me. 

I’ve been fortunate to have met and known some really wonderful people throughout my life so far, a handful of which I’ve been proud to name as friends. Given that life is all about balance, I’ve also had some bad experiences with people that are no longer friends. The major downside to these former friendships is that I am now more reluctant to bond with new people and openly trust that someone else may in fact be interested in all the boring and innane details of my life. This has meant that I tend to keep people at a distance – perhaps at too great a distance to form meaningful connections. I know this will change with time, and I’m sure that recognising what has come before is an important step in looking forward to what is yet to be.

In any event I won’t be letting any current or future friends sleep with my husband or happily allow them to drive me off a cliff. I will however stand by their career choices if it’s working for them and makes them happy, and I will be there when I’m needed with an attentive ear (and maybe a bottle of wine)…With any luck they’ll be prepared to do the same.

9 Comments

  1. Francesca

    Great post! I agree – the great friends are the ones you can really talk in depth to as well as talk in shorthand. And I had exactly the same reaction to Andy’s friends in The Devil Wears Prada – why couldn’t they be supportive during the process of a huge step in her career? Still, great movie – I love the fashion montages!

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Francesca – Thanks so much! It is definitely great how with really close friends you can cut corners on long-winded descriptions and talk almost ‘in code’ without even realising that we’re doing it (BTW – I love how you described this as conversational shorthand). I agree – The Devil Wears Prada is a really good movie…there are some fantastic performances and the fashion is AMAZING…I would love to have access to that wardrobe. I’m glad that someone else didn’t really ‘get’ the reaction of Andy’s friends – they should definitely have been a little more understanding.

  2. Paul

    I find that as I decline disgracefully into late middle age I make fewer and fewer new friends or even new companions. I am getting less tolerant. The comfort is that the few friends I have now I know will be there for life.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Paul – I find the same is true of myself. However I do worry about my tolerance levels sometimes…but perhaps that is just what comes with getting older – there is less time to waste on the wrong kind of people. There is definitely a wonderful comfort with knowing that certain friends will always be there…

  3. Ricardo

    What?No free love? That is a bit far fetched. I agree. As most of my friends have married off and had kids I find myself in new uncharted waters. I can still do the “remember when” thing but they’re too busy for it.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Ricardo – Thanks for being so kind! The view of friendships in some movies will just never align with my own views I guess…thankfully there are some really great movies out there which present a more realistic view of my idea of friends…

      Oh one of the main troubles with getting older has to be that lack of time as people get busier within their own worlds of family and children…it can be hard to find space for reminiscing…

  4. Ricardo

    May I add that you are in a wonderful position to have these friends.

  5. Mental Mist

    Check check uh huh, check yeah of course! check check, we could be great friends Tracey but i don’t drink, so chocolate? … have bookmarked the book :)!

    I too have only a very few who i call friends who call me names in return, in the balance of too much vs too many, i would take too much any day!

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Mental Mist – So glad we’re on the same wavelength (brings a warm smile to my face). I would be very glad to count you as a friend, and of course instead of indulging in wine we will be able to share a mutual love of dark chocolate…it certainly sounds like a plan!! You are lovely beyond belief. 8)

      I think with friends (as with everything else in life) quality definitely wins over quantity. There are some really wonderful people in the world, all that’s needed is to have the chance to make some wonderful connections…

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