"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."
—Muriel Rukeyser


Dennis Palumbo

Dennis Palumbo

Posted May 8, 2009 | 04:33 PM (EST)


Movies for Grown-Ups?

Well, it's that time of year again, when Hollywood begins rolling out the big-budget "tent-pole" movies. Last week saw the huge opening for X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and this weekend brings Star Trek, also expected to deliver big box-office returns. Not to mention the upcoming Transformers sequel, Night at the Museum 2, Angels and Demons, and other high-profile summer fare.

Not that I have a problem with any of these films. I expect to be standing in line myself for a number of them.

My concern here---as both a movie-goer and a therapist who treats many noted Hollywood writers, directors, producers and actors---is that the number of big-budget, comic book-derived, fantasy-oriented films is on the rise, at the same time that fewer mature, adult-oriented films are making it to the screen. And that those which do come out are doing so poorly. Recently, we've seen the release of State of Play, Duplicity, and The Soloist---among others---none of which, despite good-to-great reviews, did much business.

Of course, I'm not alone in pointing out this sober fact. Industry pundits are mostly in agreement that movies have become primarily vehicles for urban teens, who are not only inclined to see their favorite films more than once, but are also avid consumers for merchandise and video games derived from those films. Whether on dates or in fan-groups, these teens are the primary target for Hollywood movies nowadays, which is why we see either big-budget films based on pop culture icons like Spider-Man or Harry Potter, or else low-budget horror films and R-rated comedies.

Not to mention how infrequently adults are taking the trouble to go to the movies in theaters. In this uncertain economy, with prices for everything from parking to theater tickets to baby-sitters on the rise, many adults are opting out of what used to be an almost weekly entertainment excursion.

This phenomenon is on my mind because I just learned that my friend Bobby Moresco (Oscar-winning writer/producer of Crash and Million Dollar Baby) is making a new film detailing the story of Fidel Castro's exiled daughter, Alina Fernandez. The result of a love affair Castro had prior to taking power in Cuba, Alina grew up to become a dissident who spoke out against Castro and the Revolution. Moresco will be producing, directing and co-writing the film with Nilo Cruz, a Cuban-American who was the first Hispanic to win the Pulitizer Prize for drama.

Sounds like a great project, that will probably make a great film. But will adult film-goers support it?
In recent years, we've had terrific films like Michael Clayton, Zodiac and Charlie Wilson's War go unsupported by the very same literate adults who routinely complain about the lack of quality entertainment coming out of Hollywood. Even Oscar-winning Kate Winslet couldn't get people into the theater to see Little Children.

Maybe now it's time for all of us to put our ticket-buying money where our mouths are and show up in support whenever Hollywood provides a movie for grown-ups. Rare as they are---and more rare they surely will be, if current trends continue---it's the least we can do. After all, we've pulled other endangered species back from the brink of destruction. Hopefully, we can do the same for grown-up movies, now assuredly on the Cinematic Endangered Species List.

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