When a film strikes a chord deep within you, I’m talking
about when it really speaks to you on a profound level, it’s
indescribable. Everyone has a film that
holds a special place in their heart, regardless of the quality or popularity
of it; if it means something to you, that’s all that matters.
But as you get older, something happens. You begin to forget the sort of magic that
certain movies create within you. And
soon, the film that you could watch everyday, the one you could watch without
ever growing tired of it, changes. You
begin to notice the flaws and wonder why you even liked it in the first
place. We grow up so, naturally, our
tastes change. We can’t do anything
about that. But what we can do is look
back at those films, forget whatever’s bothering us in this hectic day and age
and remember a time before everything got so serious.
Every week, Long Lost Cinema presents a
film that you may have forgotten; for no particular reason, aside from the fact
that life simply got in the way. Cult
flicks, forgotten classics, guilty pleasures- they’re all here for your
Today, we rediscover 1991’s Drop Dead Fred.
How ironic is it that the first article in a series about
remembering films when times were simpler is about a woman who tries to let go
of her childhood? Did I mention that her childhood has taken the form of an
unpredictable returning imaginary friend?
Drop Dead Fred tells the story of Lizzie, a
young woman whose adult life is crumbling around her. She moves back with her mother and is subsequently forced to
contend with Drop Dead Fred, a manic imaginary friend from her childhood who
thinks that she’s still little “snotface” from years ago.
Drop Dead Fred was a film I came across many a
time on pay television when I was younger.
It was at the top of the list of films that I could watch nonstop and at
all times of the day. I enjoyed it
because it reminded me (and still does) of one of my favorite films of all
time, Beetlejuice. I’m
sure it’s because Fred, like Beetlejuice, was a larger than life character that
we all wish we knew. Here was a guy who
could do no wrong and could make us laugh when we needed it most. A character like that speaks volumes to
those certain viewers willing to let themselves be overcome by what is
unfolding on screen. It still has me in
its grasp after all these years, for crying out loud.
I always remember the film veering towards darker themes
throughout the second act, when Lizzie is presumed to be insane. When I was younger, I couldn’t truly latch
on to the severity of Lizzie’s dilemma; all I wanted to see was more of Fred
smearing dog poo all over the dining room walls. But it always stuck with me.
It’s the first real moment the film has in which the reality of it all
starts to really sink in. It’s a
feeling that, even when I watch it now, still creates that distinct notion of
bittersweet melancholy very few films can replicate.
Given the fact that the film didn’t have the biggest budget, the visual fantasy elements were handled
surprisingly well; especially near the end when we meet other forgotten
imaginary friends. Emotionally speaking, that
was the moment when I realized life was only going to get much more difficult
and confusing. We all want to grow up,
but when it doesn’t turn out the way we planned, we want to be children
again. It’s a universal concept that
the film wisely clinches itself too.
What’s surprising is that I was moved by a film in which Fred
refers to Lizzie’s controlling mother as the “mega bitch”. Weird, isn’t it?
Perhaps I’m looking a little too deeply into a film that
should be treated as light fluff or a time waster. It’s just that I can’t shake the second act, when Lizzie is
forced to deal with Fred, her very childhood, and decide whether or not she
wants him to disappear for good.
Watching it now, it’s pretty heartbreaking stuff if you allow yourself
to get caught up in the story. Most of
that can be attributed to the casting of Phoebe Cates as Lizzie and Rik Mayall
as Drop Dead Fred. Obviously, the film
is far from perfect, but when those two are on screen together it’s incredible
(although you have to look beneath layers and layers of goofy antics to find
what I’m talking about). It’s amazing
to look at the film and see just how powerful the
dramatic moments are when they stand alongside the outlandishly humorous
moments which, to me, is what makes a film worthy of being rediscovered; its
ability to still have an impact on you, only in a different, more meaningful, fashion.
In a way, Drop Dead Fred dramatizes what we
all must go through at one point in our lives.
But the film stresses the fact that, while we should grow up, we should
never lose touch with our inner child.
With that in mind, the ending of the film, in which years later, Lizzie
is married and has a daughter, proves to be something that had more of an
impact on me now than when I first saw it.
Simply put, our childhood never truly dies; it’s passed on to our loved
ones, the ones that are willing to grasp onto that special kind of innocence
that never really disappears, it just takes a prolonged leave of absence. And for that reason alone, Drop Dead
Fred will forever hold a special place in my heart.
If anything should be taken from Drop Dead Fred,
something that sums up the entire film, it’s a quote from Fred himself: “You
see, when something’s not working right, the best thing to do is tear it apart
to make it better.” Truer words have
never been spoken. So find a copy of Drop
Dead Fred and feel like a kid again, even if it is for only one hundred minutes.
In next week’s installment of Long Lost Cinema,
we rediscover Little Monsters.