When is it ok to take work home?

This is part 3 in my series on lessons for young professionals from recent movies.

3. Total objectivity is impossible and overrated.

I need to start this post with a disclaimer: Boundaries between teachers and students, therapists and clients, and other parties in professional relationships are important.  In the examples I give in this post, the professionals in question respect the legal and ethical boundaries while allowing themselves to become emotionally invested, to a healthy degree, in the people they are helping.  Philosophers and psychologists tell us that complete objectivity is impossible; we all bring biases and baggage to whatever we approach, including our careers.  That’s not a bad thing, and in the two examples below, I hope to prove that it can even be beneficial under the appropriate circumstances.

First, we return to Anna Kendrick.  In 50/50, she plays a mental health counselor to Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character, who has cancer.  At first (and I think this has a lot to do with how young she is, and feels) she is overly vigilant about maintaining professionalism, which makes the counseling sessions tense and awkward (and, admittedly, very funny).  A breakthrough occurs when she gives her client a ride home and he gets a chance to see her as a real person with a very messy car.  At this point, she begins to open up about some of her own personal worries, which allows the therapeutic relationship to become natural and unforced.  Ultimately, the counselor learns just as much as the client does, and in the end (AFTER the counseling sessions have ended, I must stress) she gets a really great boyfriend out of the deal.

A similar principle is at work in The Woman in Black, in which Daniel Radcliffe plays a widowed lawyer with a young son.  (If you’re having trouble picturing that, remember that this is a late 19th/early 20th century period piece–people died earlier back then, so they had to get started earlier.)  I believe that his grief for his wife’s death and concern for his son’s safety, far from interfering with his work, endow him with the emotional intelligence and perceptiveness necessarily to solve the spooky case he gets caught up in, which involves the death of a woman and a young boy.

In the next post, we’ll begin to look at some negative examples.

Questions for Hollywoodland

Now that the Golden Globe nominations are out and award season approaches, I would like to throw a couple of rhetorical questions into the vast sea of opinion that will soon begin roiling.

1. We’re going to be seeing a lot of clips from Moneyball over the next few months.  I want to know what the new, trim Jonah Hill thinks when he sees the fat guy in those clips.  Does he hate that guy?  Does he feel sorry for him?  Does he say, “Cheer up, old boy; you’ll be well rid of all that soon enough.”  Or does he think, with a shiver, “There but for the grace of God go I . . . again”?

2. Why can’t the Academy (or the Hollywood Foreign Press, etc.) deign to give one acting nomination to someone from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2?  I know it’s got a lot going against it: an ensemble cast, placement in a series involving multiple directors (instead of a neat, self-contained package like Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings), the fantasy genre, and the label “children’s movie,” which even the last few films haven’t been able to shake.  I also know that I’m just a silly fangirl, but I think even a more objective observer might be willing to admit that Ralph Fiennes deserves a Best Supporting Actor nod for his riveting portrayal of Voldemort, and that Alan Rickman also deserves one for his equ…ally (get it, superfans?) riveting performance as Severus Snape.  (You don’t have to be on screen for more than a few minutes to garner a Supporting Actor/ess nomination; cf. Viola Davis in Doubt.)  And let’s not forget Daniel Radcliffe.  He would have to be in the Best Actor category (duh), which is harder to break into, especially for a 22-year-old who’s been playing the same role for ten years.  But nobody can justly deny that Daniel Radcliffe has established himself as a serious contender in film.  He won’t get nominated for an acting award this year (unless it’s a Tony?), but we haven’t seen the last of him.