Quirky romcom with Ode to Joy movie

IT’s the first time I’ve heard of cataplexy, a sudden and uncontrollable muscle weakness that is triggered by a strong emotion, such as anger and in the case of the movie, Ode To Joy’ main character Charlie — joy!

In the movie, Charlie’s sister is getting married and he is happy, of course, but faints away.

Yes, it’s tragicomic and when he fainted and hit the groom, as well as the chairs, we laughed. Oh dear. It happened without warning, for Charlie (Martin Freeman, of Bilbo Baggins fame in the Hobbit film trilogy) the cataplexy sufferer and us, the cinema audience.

The stage is thus set — in the midst of Charlie’s loss of muscle control, he falls in love. Can this Brooklyn librarian make it through to his heart’s desire?

It’s a romcom, partly inspired by a true account in WBEZ Chicago’s “This American Life”, that has some witty lines, and really funny relationship hurdles that anyone can relate to.

Charlie, who manages to carry on living a semblance of a life by avoiding babies, mums, puppies, listening to “Siegfried’s Funeral March” as he walks to work and basically happiness-triggering things, one day meets a lovely Francesca (Morena Baccarin) in the library.

They seem to hit it off, but Charlie thinks his condition will surely not be understood by her. So, he gets his supportive younger brother Cooper (Jake Lacy) to date Francesca. And they in turn introduce him to Bethany (adorably played by Melissa Rauch, The Big Bang Theory).

Through the ups-and-downs of his emotional state, Charlie resorts to what his grandfather taught him — he rode the merry-go-round, and made sure he was strapped down. It was for him, and his grandpa, a happy time without hurting anyone and himself.

There are some edited parts in the movie, like swear words and I think the raunchier parts in the bedroom scenes. While these can leave you a bit taken aback — oh, what did she say or do?, you briefly wonder — the narrative is strong enough to carry you through to the sweet end.

You may find the bedroom antics of these two couples hilarious, as they try to achieve some sense of er, achievement in a quaint bed-and-breakfast.  You may remember someone else’s cringe-worthy ode as Rauch plays her cello version of the Cranberries’ Zombie.

The scenes were shot in the streets of New York City, with its constant zippy dynamics, and the beauty of the city is captured by director of cinematography, David Jones.

I found Ode to Joy inspirational. It’s about learning not to be afraid to do things that could potentially harm you, like para-gliding, but letting yourself live if you so wish to do so. We all self-sabotage in relationships, and this movie articulates that well — like when Charlie who asks Francesca if it’s okay if they can never go together to the beach as someone might be playing catch with a golden retriever?

So, this shortish feature film with indie music like Left Me Yet by Daya and Better Luck Next Time by Kelsea Ballerini, may leave you with some questions of our own — like what makes you happy? Given our recent gloom over the haze, some of us might just say a clear sky, and hopefully with a smile. Now, isn’t that a good takeaway from a movie?


Filed under Arts, Cinema
Subhadra Devan

A journalist who has been writing about culture, arts and heritage since the 1980s. She is herself gobsmacked to have started the Sunday arts pages for English newspapers in Malaysia, in the new millennium. The passion for these genres rages on.

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