On 50 First Dates

Because of an article I’ve just read, a rant on a film I’ve seen once, eighteen months ago. 🙂

I don’t generally like Adam Sandler movies. Okay, let’s be honest–remove the “generally” from the previous sentence, and that’s sums up exactly how I feel about Sandler and his cinematic excesses. Yes, I laughed at the absurdity of Happy Gilmore. Yes, I thought Billy Madison was stupidly amusing. But I don’t like these movies. And I cannot think of any of Sandler’s movies that I have seen (and I’ve probably seen a good half-dozen) that I’ve genuinely liked.

So, about a year and a half ago I saw 50 First Dates, not by choice but by situation. It happened to be on, I couldn’t do anything but watch it, and so I settled in and watched a film about a guy who wants to date a young woman with a really strange case of amnesia.

Did I laugh at it? Yes, I’ll admit that I did. But when the closing credits rolled, I had a thought I couldn’t shake.

The situation, as the film presents it, put the Drew Barrymore character through a rather sadistic story arc, and what would have been, in the hands of someone else, a touching story of the mysteries of the human mind, was in the hands of Adam Sandler a mercilessly cruel exercise.

Barrymore’s character suffers a form of amnesia, brought about by a traumatic car accident, that has her memories revert every day back to the morning of the accident. When Sandler’s character meets her, they strike up a friendship, but the next day she acts as if they’ve never met, because as best she knows they haven’t. Eventually Sandler’s persistence in pursuing Barrymore sees results–she becomes aware on an unconscious level that she knows this person she cannot remember–and at the end of the film we learn that Sandler and Barrymore married and had children.

That‘s what bugs me.

Barrymore wakes up, seven months pregnant, with no awareness of when or how that happened. Imagine the psychic trauma that would inflict upon her. Yes, it would be washed away when she woke up the next morning, but then the psychic trauma would begin again. Yes, the film addresses a manner in which she’s brought up to speed every day on who she is and what’s happened to her, but getting past the confusion from waking up in an unfamiliar body in an unfamiliar environment and reaching that lifeline would be chancy. Hence, my feeling that the events of 50 First Dates, once you think them through to the logical conclusion, are irresponsibly cruel to Barrymore’s character. So while I thought the film was amusing on its surface, I didn’t like the film overall because of what it did.

Maybe I’ve read too much Oliver Sachs in my time. I enjoyed The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, for its tales of what the human mind can do, or not do. This article that I read earlier analyzes the symptoms Barrymore’s character displays in the film and attempts a diagnosis. Still, I come away thinking that someone like Sachs could have made the premise of 50 First Dates into something remarkable. Instead, it was just cruel.

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