Friday, January 2, 2009

Yes Man

I saw Yes Man in theaters yesterday, and I thought it was a pretty darn good movie to watch on the first day of the year. It's message is what's behind basically all new year's resolutions: live life, don't be afraid to change and do new stuff and be a better person. I would not, however, recommend watching it with your mother, because mine at least was very disgusted by a scene in which Jim Carrey can't say no to an old grandma's sexual advances. Yeah, it was gross, but decently funny. I give it a 7.5 out of 10.

The most interesting part to me was the "covenant" Jim Carrey's character made. Quick summary/spoiler: Carrey is convinced by a self-help guru in front of everyone at a huge seminar to make a covenant with himself that he will agree to every opportunity presented to him. Hilarity and spontaneity ensue, and Carrey's previously depressing life changes for the better. But towards the end, he begs the guru to "take away the covenant" because, as you can imagine, saying yes to everything can cause problems (see above paragraph for exhibit 1). The guru's answer surprises him: there is no covenant. Turns out the guru was just "riffing" because Carrey was going to say no to him and embarass him in front of his audience. The point, the guru explains, is that the covenant is just there to get you started, but you should start saying yes to good opportunities because you want to, not because you have to. This also opens you up to saying no to bad opportunities as long as you generally stay open to new experiences.

I found that part interesting for a couple reasons. First, it's a great way of looking at the Mosaic law, and all "lower" laws in general. A schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, if you will. [random aside: in doing the obligatory two seconds of research (a.k.a. googling) for blog posts, I ran across this article on that verse. I have no idea if it's true, but I hope it is] I also thought it was cool that the word covenant was used in a mainstream film in a pretty similar sense to how us mormons use it [the guru was kind of a God figure]. Of course, we consider covenants to be between us and God, whereas Yes Man portrayed Carrey's covenant as just with himself, but in some sense it's only our half of the covenant that is in question so (if you squint just right) you could consider mormon covenants to be with ourselves too. But not really :)

And finally there is the potentially troubling revelation from the guru that "there is no covenant" basically saying that the covenant was just a made-up thing that didn't really have any power [when giving the covenant the guru had claimed that if Carrey broke it he would be stricken with very bad luck]. I do believe there are consequences for breaking real covenants--they are serious and sacred things--but I think it's not often what we assume it will be. Oftentimes it feels like we want the punishment for breaking a sacred covenant to be righteous wrath of God poured down upon the insolent backslider--we're talking house burning down, spouse leaving, going bankrupt, or something deliciously big like that. The kind of big thing you can make an example out of or say "ha! told ya so!" if it's somebody else, or really wallow in if it's you. But I think our punishment for breaking covenants is much more subtle than that. In fact, the worst punishment is often your own guilt. Or often we just won't be as happy if we break our covenants--there's sexual disease, there's hangovers, there's the emptiness when you spend your life chasing material success instead of serving and loving your fellow men, etc etc etc. If we truly magnify our covenants, I believe we can largely avoid these pitfalls.

So yeah, I enjoyed the movie. There were some pretty good funny parts, but maybe I'm just biased in favor of Jim Carrey. I really must warn you though (in addition to the gross scene mentioned in the first paragraph) that the first half hour or so is really quite crappy--slow and unfunny and blah. But then it gets a lot better. Also, there's some fun music by "Munchausen by Proxy," the fictitious band that Jim Carrey's girlfriend is in [think Moldy Peaches meets David Bowie], plus the Eels.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome. I just came back from Yes Man movie late at night in the cinema. Jim Carrey is so hillarious. He is funny and made me laugh the entire movie. It is a fun to watch movie, his plot is pretty similiar to those in Liar Liar. Overall good one.