Remember when I told you I watched a 1948 movie called Portrait of Jeannie over the holidays? One
The Portrait of Jeannie boards contain post after post of people who not only liked, not only adored, but obsess over this movie. Some had watched it two or three times in succession. They loved it so much they asked for other movies that would make them feel the high they felt at the movie's conclusion. Their Holy Shee-at! button had been pushed. And when I considered other movies that captured what I felt after watching it, I realized mine had been pushed as well. We had identical buttons. This movie, though seventy years old, hit the exact note of inspiration from which my fiction germinates. Every movie the imdb visitors suggested I had had the same visceral reaction to: time, love, gothic, dark, suspense.
So what is it about them that makes movies like The Ghost and Mrs. Muir and Somewhere in Time gather a subversive, cult-like following? Mattel produces a Rex Harrison and Gene Tierney Barbie/Ken set that probably sits adored somewhere deep in a Kansas farmhouse curio cabinet. Mackinac Island has a weekend where people gather from all over the world to be part of Somewhere in Time's Grand Hotel setting. I've certainly seen movies with better plot lines, better characters, more memorable themes. What is that magical, elusive note that makes people want to replay it over and over?
I can no more define it in myself than I can anyone else who also has this button. I can pinpoint market and genre and target demographics, but even that fails to satisfy. I could lay out a line about the redemptive power of second chances, the human urge to have a reset button in our journey, the belief that love surpasses all that we presently understand about our world. But that would be like a Devo song: sounds great until you actually try to understand it.
If you believe in the supernatural, let's call that note magic. If not, we label it luck. Either way, it is what writers spend a lifetime tuning and readers and audiences spend a lifetime listening for.
What pushes your button?