Archive for December, 2009


Can you change?

I just got back from seeing the movie Up in the Air with my wife. It seemed like a ¬†perfectly innocent way to spend the day after Christmas. I was not so sure this was my top pick from our “movies we have to see” list, but I was OK with it. I had seen that it got great reviews, knew it was about a guy – played by George Clooney – who travels around the country a lot by plane. I knew that going with Joan to a George Clooney movie would gain me a lot of valuable husband points. Beyond those factors I was just really not sure what the draw toward this movie was, but frankly I have watched movies in the past with a much lower threshold of motivation.

As we walked out of the theater, I was aware of nothing so much as a profound sense of disappointment and sadness, both revolving around the way the filmmakers ended the movie. At the risk of spoiling it for anyone who has not seen the movie, the conclusion that it seems to draw is that regardless of their inclinations to the contrary, people really ultimately cannot change. It is essentially a modern day paraphrase of Popeye’s motto; they are who they are and that’s all that they are.

The thing is, if the Clooney character had experienced the kind of dramatic transformation that he seemed to be leaning toward, the producers would have been flagged for being too cheesy and “formulaic” or something like that. And heaven forbid that we go down that road.

But sometimes people do change. Sometimes there are profound events that change our perspective and show us that we have been totally off-track in the way we have been living. And then sometimes we heed that wake-up call and spin around and head off in a different direction.

I suppose the ironic thing about the movie (and I realize now that if I have spent this much time thinking and writing about it, it must have gotten under my skin quite effectively… so they probably did make a pretty good movie after all) is that the very thing George Clooney kept advising people to do was the very thing that he could not do. As a corporate “head chopper” (i.e., a consultant hired to come in to a company and tell people they were fired) Clooney’s character always told folks to regard this as a chance to make a fresh new start in life and start over… to turn around and go in a new direction.

And ultimately, he was the one who could not heed his own advice when the moment to make a huge change presented itself.

But I know because I have seen it. People can change. People do change. But usually only with God’s help and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Praise God!

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