So Ben and I watched this movie the other night, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, basically a coming of age story based on this real guy’s life coming of age in Queens in the mid-80s. Robert Downey Jr. plays the adult version of the guy and Shia LeBoeuf plays the kid. (BTW – ever since SNL I will never be able to think of him without thinking of Kristin Wiig’s Target Lady saying in her weird guttural voice, ‘Shia Le Boeuf – what kind of name is that?’) There’s not too much of a story but there’s a lot of drama with these guys and their neighborhood girlfriends and a bad situation with a tagger. I can’t say I really liked this movie, or didn’t like it, but it did give me a very strong ‘feeling’.
When I see movies like this, they feel so familiar that I always feel like they’re portraying my life, in spite of the fact that: I grew up in Manhattan, in the 70s, and my ‘gang’ was primarily a bunch of arty kids at an arty private high school. There was nothing rough around the edges about that part of it, although the Upper West Side neighborhood at that time was extremely un-gentrified, nothing like the place it is today. I think I get this feeling because I did go to public school through fifth grade, and it was a little more rough around the edges, and there was one ‘incident’ where I was involved in threatening to beat up some other fifth-grader because she ‘slammed’ a friend of mine, which didn’t happen not just because our teacher heard about it and talked to me, but because – in no universe was I the kind of kid who would actually beat someone up. In any case, although it was a possibility that I might attend a public junior high, I went to private school the next year because my parents felt that school was too dangerous. So sometimes I think maybe if the cards had landed that way I’d have become a tough little street-hanging NY girl, except when I really think it through, I suspect I’d have come out more or less the same. Nina, true one and only BFF, was also slated to go to IS 44, and ended up at CGPS instead, so really, I think if we both had gone to IS 44 we’d have found each other and hid from the tough kids. I think when your parents are arty types it’s pretty unlikely that you’re going to be anything other than an arty type, no matter where you go to school.
And yet, I see movies like this and I think ‘That could have been me.’ Which isn’t even a bad thing. It’s just a thing that isn’t really true.