Comparison of the Films My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Finding Forrester
Watching films has always been a favorite undertaking of several people. Some people do so as a temporary escape from the realities of the world while others are entertained simply by watching movies. Then there are those that view films for the cultural, historical, political, socials and other lessons learnt thereto. Whatever the film genre may be, movie aficionados derive valuable insights and these especially come in the form of themes presented in the movies. The way these themes come across may be the same and differentiated only in the film type. For instance, movies with love and hope themes can be portrayed in romantic comedies or even drama. Films with heroism and self-sacrifice as themes can be thrillers or tragedies. Indeed, whatever type or genre a film has, there are varying themes that can be sources of inspiration, lessons in life and whatever a viewer may deem relevant.
Two movies that can be considered as having similar themes yet presented differently are My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Finding Forrester. Both films involved individuals who have had to impose limitations on themselves as a result of the culture and environment they grew up in. In My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the protagonist had to face up to the pressures of being married whilst still young and looking for someone who has the same religious and cultural background as she has. Finding Forrester on the other hand has a young African-American youth who has to appear to be the typical young male more interested in basketball rather than show his intellectual prowess. Consequently, the theme for both movies is how individuals can "come out of their shells" and be the persons they want to be in order to attain what they truly want in life. Another theme similar to both films is "breaking conventions" wherein the characters did not do what was expected of and from them but rather asserted what they want in order to gain their aspirations. A theme that differentiated Finding Forrester from My Big Fat Greek Wedding is the friendship shared by the youth with an older man. The friendship was not readily apparent because it evolved from a student-teacher/mentor relationship into a unique friendship that saw the older man thanking the youth for "rekindling his desire to live (Connery, Mark, & Van Sant, 2000)."
The Themes of My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Fotoula "Toula" Portokalos played Nia Vardalos is a middle class Greek American woman who was having a major problem in life. It may be considered a mid-life crisis despite being only in her early 30s. Coming from a traditional Greek family, Toula was expected to be married to a man with Greek background and belonging to the Greek Orthodox Church. As fate would have its funny ways, she instead fell in love with Ian Miller, a school teacher who has upper class upbringing and a WASPish type. The dilemma then is that there is no way for Toula's father to accept such a relationship plus factor the fact that she was raised with the "three primary rules of life for a young Greek woman to follow: (1) marry a Greek boy, (2) make Greek babies, and (3) feed everyone for the rest of your life (Berardinelli, 2002)." Aside from these, Toula felt to makes things better for her; she has to make some changes in her life. She did so by taking computer courses and working at her aunt's travel agency, much to her father's chagrin.
The changes she made brought positive things to her and she indeed was finally coming out of her shell. She felt better about herself and she finally was able to have the relationship she wanted with Ian. Although Toula has taken the first step to be free from the bonds of what was expected of her, there is still that part of her that believes and respects her tradition and background. With regards to her relationship with Ian, she knew that it would be a big blow to her family especially her father if she tells them that she wants to marry a non-Greek guy. Her misgivings were mitigated when Ian agreed to be baptized in the Greek Orthodox Church. When she finally announced her wanting to marry Ian, her father had no choice but to accept since Ian was a convert already.
The "coming out of one's shell" and "breaking conventions" themes were dealt with in the film via the changes Toula made in her life despite the social and cultural pressures brought about by her family. At first, "she is sad, single and going nowhere in life until she goes back to school, gets another job, and most importantly, meets Ian (Weschler, 2003)." All these showed the transformation Toula did in order to get what she wanted and go where she aspired to go. Although she broke some of the conventions and did not abide by some expectations from her, she ended up having a win-win situation whereby she married the man of her dreams and at the same time was able to make amends with her traditional beliefs. At the end, the decisions she had made in her life were the same decisions she wanted her own daughter to make especially when she tells Paris that she "can marry anyone she wants (Goetzman, Hanks, Wilson, & Zwick, 2002)." The twist in how the themes presented lays in how a traditional woman was able to assert what she wants, gets it but never falls far away from her origins. Her family may have been apprehensive at first with here "coming out of her shell" and breaking conventions" but eventually, their love and understanding for her prevailed because deep within Toula, she still believed in the traditions of her family.
The Themes of Finding Forrester
Jamal Wallace may seem to be your typical African-American teenage boy who likes playing basketball and does average at school. However, Jamal is an intellectually gifted lad who has excellent acumen in writing but prefers to keep these in order to be "not out of place" with other youth he hangs out with. In the confines of his room though, it is apparent that Jamal was already "breaking conventions" with the writings he has been doing in his journal and the number of books he reads. Most youth would probably have the latest electronic gadgets and fashion fads but Jamal was more inclined to go the intellectual route and his passion is in the quest for literary accomplishment. It may be construed that Jamal has two personalities that he projects -- a normal guy whenever he is with his peers and an intellectual whenever he is by himself.
The intellectual side of Jamal is the persona that has to "break out of its shell" and it happened on two occasions. The first one was when he was "recruited by an elite Manhattan school [not only] for his brilliance on and off the basketball court (Harris, 2001)" but his state test scores showed him as intellectually gifted. At the private school, his intellectual abilities were evident especially with the outputs he has been presenting. Thus, he was firmly showing his true nature and not hiding his special abilities. The second occasion where he was able to "break of his shell" was when he breaks into Forrester's apartment on a dare, leaves his backpack. Shortly after the break-in, Jamal is down on the court when his backpack sails out of Forrester's window. Opening it, Jamal finds his notebook filled with corrections and editorial comments. (Holden, 2000)" He was not sure then who the man was but when they were given an assignment in school to read the book written by Forrester, Jamal thought of confronting the man who owned the apartment he broke into. He found out that the man was indeed the reclusive writer Forrester and there started the student-mentor/teacher relationship where Forrester helped Jamal improve his literary skills. The lessons Jamal was getting from Forrester were critical lessons that truly made his intellectual persona break out of the shell and enhance his intellectual capabilities.
The epitome of the "breaking out of the shell" theme can best be seen when "the compositions Jamal brings to class astonish everyone. They're so brilliant, in fact, that Professor Crawford (F. Murray Abraham), Jamal's haughty, effeminate writing teacher, suspects plagiarism. (Holden, 2000)" Crawford's suspicion of Jamal's plagiarism saw fruition when he accused the young man of the misdeed during a writing contest. When Jamal was seem to be down already because of the plagiarism accusation, the friendship theme was portrayed in the scene when Forrester appeared and change the attitude of those present. He read a literary piece which everyone thought he wrote but he explained after that it was Jamal's work and there was no plagiarism committed by the young lad. Thus, this memorable scene embodied the strong bond of…