When it comes to capturing or portraying the military life, spouses know not to expect great things from Hollywood … but that could be about to change.
It’s all too easy for the movie and TV folks to highlight nothing but the heartbreak of farewells and military deaths, the frustration of separation and the glow of homecoming. You have to admit, that stuff just screams “drama.” By and large Hollywood would have Americans believe that the strain of military life always leads to infidelity, divorce or suicide on the home front. Pride? Nope. Courage? Not so much. Making the best of things even though they sometimes do, in fact, suck? Nope, again. The servicemembers tend to get plenty of credit for that stuff – but rarely the spouses.
Enter the new movie “Act of Valor,” releasing Feb. 24. You’ve probably seen the previews by now, or at least enough of one to realize that this is a film heavy on “cool guy” stuff and easy on the candlelight romance. But what you don’t see in the preview is the stuff that should convince you, oh military spouse, to spend your entertainment dollars seeing this movie: the way it presents the families.
I don’t want to lead you astray. This is not a movie about military families –- it is a movie about real life, cool guy Navy SEALs doing real life, cool guy missions and the acts of valor that come as a result. It absolutely does not sugarcoat the very real sacrifice of military families and it did make me cry.
But here’s the key: I wasn’t crying just because it made me sad. I was crying because of the pride.
I think it’s safe to say that this is the first movie I’ve ever seen that has thrilled me by the way it portrays military families. The family support systems behind the SEALs in this movie don’t get a ton of air time, but when they do what’s shown are the real, raw, true-to-life emotions that we, in reality, do our darnedest to display. And it’s not just the sad stuff either, it’s ALL of the emotion: stuff like the camaraderie between families, the good face we put on before deployment starts even though our hearts are breaking, how we deal with the little projects we’d let them do if they were home … all of it.
What this movie does NOT have: stories of infidelity, people breaking up because the military life is “so hard,” catty wives stabbing each other in the back over silly gossip, or scenes of military funerals where rain falls as the widow is sobbing uncontrollably and a minster reads Psalm 23.
The way this movie shows military families is the way we like to imagine ourselves -- the way we want people to think of us. Like that internet meme that's been floating around Facebook with the "what I think I do," "what my friends think I do," and "what I actually do" slides, this film shows how we imagine ourselves: holding the tears until after he's gone and a public face of pride and dignity. It shows us in our best light -- even if that light is one we imagine.
This is the first time I’ve ever felt my life accurately represented by Hollywood. I guess there really is a first time for everything.
Will you like this film enough to be happy you went and saw it instead of, say, “The Vow?” That depends on how much you dig explosions, firefights and really cool scenes of Navy SEALs jumping out of various aircraft.
But if you do decide to throw your husband a bone and spend a night watching a movie he’s sure to love, know that you won’t leave feeling betrayed by the Hollywood machine. And that’s a win for everybody.