Manage episode 216865698 series 1025378
A priest and a rabbi walk into an airport ... to meet their childhood best friend, a tomboy who has grown up into a beautiful, intelligent, independent, CEO. As she visits her hometown and her two best friends, the men struggle with their growing romantic feelings for the same woman. Could this really be a tale of polyamory, snuck into mainstream cinema? Joreth reviews this Ben Stiller film to see if a polyamorous MFM vee could really make it onto the silver screen.
I think this is one of those movies that Netflix recommended to me based on adding some other "similar" movie. I wasn't even entirely sure, with a title like that, if the movie was on the list to review for polyamory or for my list of skeptical movies. But with the happy surprise of the last movie I reviewed (A Strange Affair), I was actually kind of hopeful about this one. It was the story of two young men who were best friends as kids, growing up to become a Jewish rabbi and a Catholic priest, and the tomboy who was also their best childhood friend coming back into town as a successful, beautiful, corporate CEO. Because it had big names in it, the movie was most likely to be not-poly, but the setup had some potential.
Unfortunately, it flopped.
Not that the movie wasn't good (that's debatable, based on whether you like romantic comedies and movies that involve secrets), but it wasn't poly at all and it should have been.
These two men love this woman - she was perfect for them both. But because the rabbi is allowed to have sex (and because he is being pressured to find a wife before he becomes head of his temple, or whatever), he immediately acts on his crush when the priest does not because of his vows of celibacy.
So the woman spends about half the movie developing a romantic relationship with the rabbi, but keeping the priest safely in a box labeled "do not touch". And as anyone who spends any time in the world of the Monogamous Mindset knows, when a girl puts a guy in the Friend Box, he's stuck there for life, no matter how strong her feelings for him ... those feelings are just very strong "friend" feelings.*
So, anyway, by the time the priest confesses his love and he has just about talked himself into leaving the priesthood for her, she is already thoroughly immersed in her relationship with the rabbi and totally oblivious to the priest's growing attraction to her. So the priest has to swallow his embarassment and go back to thinking of her like a sister.
Now, you might be able to put this movie in the poly analogues category, because the three of them remain a strong group throughout the whole movie. The priest somehow manages to only be angry at having their relationship hidden from him, but he doesn't seem to feel any major jealousy. Well, there is the one fight where he gets drunk and yells at the rabbi that the rabbi stole his girlfriend, but mostly the priest seems to recover from his one- or two-night bender and move right into compersion for his two best friends, only nursing the hurt feelings of being lied to (which, frankly, I can totally understand).
The movie ends happily ... for a monogamous movie ... with the rabbi and the woman back together and the priest happy for them both and everyone is one big happy (monogamous & platonic) family. So it might fall under the category of poly analogues, where the only difference between them and us is that the woman would be sleeping with the priest too if it was us.
But the reason why I didn't like this movie is because I get upset at plots that put a convenient excuse in the way, basically cockblocking a poly relationship from happening. Usually, it's death, but in this case, it was vows of celibacy.
See, in the world of the Monogamous Mindset, a person can only romantically love two people at the same time if one of them is dead. It is only acceptable for a woman to say she loves two men if she is referring to her dead husband and her new husband, whom she met a safe time-distance after the death of her first husband of course. So most Monogamous Mindset movies conveniently kill someone off to allow the person torn in the middle the freedom to love them both and to force her to make a choice (*ahem*Pearl Harbor*ahem*).
In this case, the priest's celibacy interfered with his ability to pursue a relationship with the love interest and his religious faith gave him something to hold onto after he was rejected and allowed him to remain in the picture. Whereas with most romcom love triangles, when the love interest rejects one guy for another, he just disappears somehow (maybe he's a bad guy & goes to jail, or maybe he's a good guy and walks away voluntarily, whatever). But because this is a Catholic priest, he is safe enough to keep in the picture and safe enough for both the rabbi and the woman to continue loving because his faith and his vows make him a non-threat. In any other movie where he isn't a priest, the "other love" has to disappear because you can't have the "other love" hanging around your new wife. Or something.
This kind of thing can often be more tone than something specific. It's not very easy to quantify why some movies that end with a dyad still make it to the poly list but other movies don't. It's something in the way the actors and the director interpreted the lines that affect the tone of the movie. These movies never have a bit of dialog where someone says "Whew! It's a good thing my husband was killed in that war, so I can safely love you now without falling out of love with him or having to choose!"
So, in Strange Affair, where one partner had a serious illness that sort of forced the characters into a position where a love triangle could happen, the tone of that movie didn't strike me as negative. It suggested, to me, that these are people who live in a world where nonmonogamy was Just Not Done, so they needed some kind of extraordinary circumstances to leave them open to the possibility, to give them the impetus to even consider something outside of the norm.
But this movie just didn't have that same feeling. The way it was portrayed suggested more of a situation where three people happened to love each other in a world where they shouldn't, so they wrote the circumstances in such a way as to give them a monogamously acceptable way to do that.
Basically, they had to neuter one of the characters in order to keep him in the picture, which isn't the same as killing him off, but it belies a tone sprung from the same well.
I would love to see this movie re-written, where the priest and the rabbi are forced to re-evaluate their religious faiths in light of their growing love and attraction for the same woman (of no particular faith); where the priest and the rabbi both decide that their mutual love for this woman is incompatible with what they have been taught about religion, which then makes them question everything else about religion, and which leads them to the realization that they have always been a happy threesome so there is no reason why they can't continue to be a happy threesome in a much fuller sense of the word. I'd love to see this movie where the woman does not put one of her best friends into the Friend Box, but allows her love for them both to flourish, and where she comes to the same realization - that they have always worked best as the Three Musketeers, and breaking off into a dyad + 1 would change the dynamic in an unacceptable way.
Unfortunately, that was not the movie I watched. ---------------------
*The Monogamous Mindset is a particular set of beliefs and viewpoints about monogamy that create the society in which I live. It does not mean that everyone who happens to be monogamous has this mindset, nor does it imply that people who are non-monogamous are automatically free of this mindset. The Monogamous Mindset is a set of rules and morés that dictate how relationships ought to be, many of which are inherently contradictory, selfish, and harmful. One such set of contradictory Monogamous Mindset rules is the rule that you are supposed to marry your best friend, but you're not allowed to be involved with your friends because that would ruin the friendship.
And that's the one I'm referencing here. There is this weird rule out there that people, women especially, can't get romantically involved with their appropriately-gendered friends because that would automatically (or could most likely) ruin the friendship. Men's magazine articles and lonely guys online like to lament about the dreaded F word - "friend". Being called a friend is like the worst thing a woman can do to a man who is interested in her, because it means he will never have a chance.
Of course *I* know this doesn't always happen and that there are exceptions, which is why I speak so condescendingly of the Monogamous Mindset and of this rule in particular, so please don't leave a comment like "but I married my best friend and it's the best relationship I've ever had!" I know, that's what makes this rule so irritating. But it's out there, and it permeates our society, and is quite possibly responsible for a significant amount of unnecessary heartache.