Exit 57. Underneath, there is a beautiful little story.

Sorry I’m late.  I had a lot of unexpected things happen this last weekend.

One thing I did recently was watch the movie Orange County.  I’ve seen this movie probably close to 100 times since its 2002 release.  And it was not at all a movie I expected to love so much.  I actually passed up a chance to see it on the big screen when it was first released.  I had a friend from Church I with the Problems who was a live-in nanny at the time.  She was taking the teenage boy to the movie theater to see Orange County with some friends of his, and she and I were going to go see something else.  I’m not even sure now what it was, although if it’s what I think I remember it being, it was one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen to the point that I don’t even want to discuss it.  I passed on Orange County because I had seen commercials for it, and I thought it looked like a dumb and disgusting teen stoner movie.

For those of you who don’t remember this movie, or (especially) for those of you who are getting it mixed up with a similarly named but unrelated TV show from a little later: Orange County stars Colin Hanks (Tom’s real-life son) as Shaun, a high school senior, a former surfer, stoner, and underachiever who has finally found inspiration.  In one horrible day, his dreams of leaving Orange County and following this inspiration constantly go wrong, despite the best efforts of Ashley, his overly positive girlfriend (Schuyler Fisk, the real-life daughter of Sissy Spacek), and Lance, his lovable loser older brother (Jack Black, playing the exact same character he always plays so well).

About six months after the time I didn’t see Orange County on the big screen, in June, I was visiting my parents while on school break.  My brother was borrowing the DVD of Orange County from a coworker, or community college classmate, I forget which.  He was into a lot of those dumb teen movies at the time, and I’d usually give them a chance.  But the day after we watched Orange County, I watched it again.  It was rare that I would want to watch one of his favorite movies a second time.  This one was special.  A few months later, my family came to visit me for my birthday.  At the time, the tradition was that my brother would get me a movie for my birthday.  I hadn’t mentioned to him any movies that I wanted, nor did I give him any gift ideas.  After taking me to dinner, we were opening presents in the parking lot, and my brother was holding my present behind his back, unwrapped, so I couldn’t see it.  Mom asked, “Do you think you know what [your brother] got you?”  I had a serious dilemma on my hands here.  If I said I thought he got me Orange County, that would mean admitting publicly that I liked this silly movie.  If I didn’t say anything, though, I’d miss a chance to be right.  I went with the first option eventually, saying something like “Ummmmmmmmmorangecounty?”  He pulled his hand out from behind his back, and sure enough, there was Orange County on DVD.  I watched it around 30 times in the next month alone.

So why did I change my mind about this little piece of cinematic brilliance?  The whole teen surfer stoner culture is just the backdrop.  Underneath, there is a beautiful little story about being yourself, figuring out what is really important in life, and having a love-hate relationship with your hometown and the way it influences you.  (Notice that the movie is named after where Shaun lives, not after what he does or what he wants to be in life or anything like that.)  And those are all things I can relate to very well.  Long before I had this blog or Facebook or Myspace or Livejournal, I used to send a monthly email to stay in touch with all my friends.  I mentioned this movie in one of those monthly emails around the time I first discovered it.  One of my good friends from high school replied, “What is it with you brilliant people and stupid movies?  My brother was just telling me he was watching Bring It On while writing his dissertation.”  (I haven’t seen Bring It On by the way.)  I replied something like, “I have a special connection with movies I can relate to.  And let’s look at it this way.  Shaun, in Orange County, is a confused kid who is tired of his hometown.  His family drives him crazy.  He writes a story based on his life.  He can’t wait to get away from all of that, but nothing goes right, and in the process, he learns what’s important in life and that running away won’t solve all his problems.  DOES THIS SOUND LIKE ANYONE YOU KNOW?  I rest my case.”

So there it is.  Orange County is one of my all-time favorite movies.  If you’ve never seen it, and you want to, come on over.  Unless you’re a jerk and I don’t know you, in which case maybe you should watch it with your own friends.

What about the rest of my readers?  Do any of you have a lesser-known movie, or book, or anything else, that you really connected with like this?

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