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Morning Truth Tell: "Feel-Good" Is a Useless Term

On facebook the other day I noticed this new entry in an ongoing series of promotional images for Short Term 12, a movie I am wild about. Like wild cuckoo-crazy besotted with.

But here is Today's Truth: Feel Good is a useless term. It means too many things to too many different people. Carry this truth with you today. Discuss it with friends (and share The Film Experience while you're at it). What does "feel good" mean to them? To you?

Short Term 12 is absolutely a Feel Good movie to me both for its moments of joy and because I was elated when I left the theater having seen such a rich movie. But many people who love "feel good" movies, in the more typical definition of the term --  'no troubling thoughts' & 'happily ever after!' -- might have trouble with this story of troubled children and the Foster Care supervisor Grace (Brie Larson) who carefully connects with them.

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Reader Comments (14)

Yup. I'm not really religious but I consider myself a humanist and I happen to like a lot of movies one could label humanist. Humanist movies are invigorating because they are respectful of its characters, no matter how imperfect they are. I consider much of Jonathan Demme's work to be very humanist but I can venture to guess nobody who has seen Rachel Getting Married would necessarily call it feel-good for the reasons you cited with Short Term 12.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

CMG -- and that was a similar case. it leaves on an optimistic note though surely. I'm really just trying to start a conversation because i was definitely "feeling good" when Short Term 12 ended and it is optimistic despite all the hurt.

i wish more filmmmakers were humanist. I sometimes wonder what Tarantino would be like if he had a little more compassion in the place of his sadism. it'd be an interesting mix since he loves the violent genres.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

That's funny with Rachel Getting Married. It's definitely a movie that makes me feel good too. And I remember one of my first conversations with a close friend in which she told me the movie was "wonderful" - totally a feel-good adjective.
YET, can you imagine the false advertising is they had called it a feel-good movie in its marketing?

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

Understood on all accounts, Nathaniel. I often think the 'feel-good' tag sells the film short and gives moviegoers the wrong impression as your wrote in the post. Slumdog Millionaire was a big one. Very Dickensian and yes it has **that** ending but getting there was not having people being warm and fuzzy.

Re: Tarantino, I'd recommend Kevin Lee's essay on Sight & Sound, IIRC, on how after Jackie Brown (where every death was very significant and consequential to the plot at hand) that the violence and death count in his movies after took a 0-60 mph jump. All of his movies from Jackie Brown going backward had a lot of on-screen deaths or brushes with death of his characters that made you really consider the actions of violence or actions against them.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

Thank goodness for the exuberant, melodious, soulful 20 Feet from Stardom, which is the feel-good movie to end all feel-good movies. Except when you think about these women's decades of neglect and non-payment within the industry they carried on their shoulders. And the ongoing struggles even of backup singers who finally land that big break.

Shit. I see your point.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNick Davis

Let me just say I love Rachel Getting Married and there are moments that just make me feel good (that whole wedding and ceremony) but like Mike in Canada notes, it being called 'feel-good' in marketing would probably be considered false advertising by a lot of people.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

For me, The Towering Inferno is a feel-good film. So cinemalicious.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I've always thought the same about "I've loved you so long". technically a 'difficult' movie, but it has such beauty and humanity that it leaves you feeling good by the end.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermarcelo

Someone's getting a little Sasha Stone-y with his pet indie!!!

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKurtis O

If you have read Sasha Stone on The Butler you realize that is an impossible task for Nathaniel to do. Oh boy, it's only August and she is at it again.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

I can't always define feel-good movies. It's a feeling, not a formula. For instance: I liked "Rachel Getting Married" and I thought it ended on an optimistic note, but I would not call it a feel-good movie. On the other hand, I thought "Slumdog Millionaire" was a feel-good movie in spite of all the tough stuff throughout it. "Life is Beautiful" was marketed as a feel-good movie, but perhaps the only thing that felt good about it was that it DID eventually end.

So, once again, it's a feeling and not a formula.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercash

My def of "feel good" is a whole different kind of movie, y'all...

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterzig

CMG - YES! I pity the fools who disagree with her at Awards Daily. She devours them all.

I admit there were years when I enjoyed her go-for-broke commitment (Social Network) but for the most of it it's exhausting. Same goes for Jeff Wells and his criticising everyone who didn't think Silver Linings Playbook was the best thing ever.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJorge Rodrigues

Jorge- Exactly. It's August. There are still 3 very important North American film festivals where many prestige movies are premiering. She is currently saying Meryl will have to give her greatest performance to beat Oprah. She is losing her mind that The Onion wrote a joke review on The Butler. Did I mention that we are still in August?

She's mad Spielberg got no love for Lincoln, framing it as the people's choice, and instead of concluding that Life of Pi was rewarded for being a technical marvel she is convinced it would've won Best Picture had there been no Argo-mentum. She hates both TIFF from being too mainstream (considering her tastes that is pot meet kettle) and thinks NYFF rejecting movies, like Life of Pi, is a good sign because they're all pretentious smarty pants at NYFF. Yes, I'm sure Telluride is a perfect film festival. Not like they kick-started the runs of many mediocre Best Picture winners or anything, particularly the last one where they applauded the least plausible scene in the whole movie.

Don't even get me started on her anti-Blue is the Warmest Color crusade. She was already complaining about it, never seeing it, before the propping up Dargis review against the movie. She still has not seen it and still tweets people are only liking it because straight males want to see this supposed explicit, long sex scene. I stopped commenting there after that with exception to her breathless rave of The Butler because her perspective of black history in that review was just.... too much to handle.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

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