Extended (and Sustained) Joy

Someone linked to this on Facebook this past weekend saying that it is a perfect example of “unadulterated joy”, something that is harder to capture than any other emotion. Give an actor a tragic scene and the tears will flow easily, the howls of pain, they will go there no problem. But give them a scene of hysterical laughter? They might break out into a cold sweat. Tears can be faked. Laughter cannot. And Joy is something that is even more elusive. What is so great about this scene below (and yes, the quality of the clip does stink) is how long it goes on. And how it never stops its momentum. It starts with one person, then another is added, then another, and another … and the excitement of these people never stops building, and never stops being specific. Each one has his or her own type of response, but it adds to the symphony of the whole. If you’re not looking at this carefully, it may seem like a breeze: Just jump around and scream for 5 minutes, right? Not at all. This scene captures what it means to be thrilled, and to not be able to believe how thrilled you are. It is specific. I have a great affection for this film, and this scene is one of my favorites. I never get sick of watching it. Every actor here is like a different instrument in a symphony orchestra, all coming in at different times, all having to match what has come before, and all with their own specific modes of expression. It’s a mini-masterpiece, this scene. And the scene is not designed to be one big group hug, with everyone freaking out all at once. It is designed to build, to bring in this one, then that one, so that there are dips in the momentum. One person “doesn’t know yet”, so he has a different energy, more everyday, but when he finds out, then we watch him catapult up to meet the energy of the others.

Like I said: Joy is one of the hardest things to express accurately.

Here, they nail it.

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7 Responses to Extended (and Sustained) Joy

  1. kathy says:

    In my favorite Christmas movie, A Christmas Carol, Alastair Sim shows such joy that it makes me cry! No other version of this movie can even compare to this one.

  2. sheila says:

    I am partial to the Muppet Christmas Carol as well, which is a pretty damn fine rendition of that story, with a brilliant Michael Caine in the lead.

    But anyway: back to the scene I am posting about.

    Look at their joy! Look how Steve Zahn wants to kiss someone – can’t – then kisses the cut-out. It’s so specific.

    Not to mention the music (thank you, Mike Viola). Sheer electric GROUP joy. Very well captured by Tom Hanks and cinematographer and editor.

  3. kathy says:

    Sheila, I must confess, I didn’t watch the scene before I commented. Serious head cold, drinking coffee. Favorite blog. Joy. Mea Culpa. You are right, Great scene. Next time I’ll read the whole post, I promise!

  4. Jennchez says:

    I love this scene also, it’s so overwhelmingly happy and it is so very very rare in real life to be that vulnerable and so that amount of joy. I can think of two times that I personally felt that way. The first and foremost was the birth of our daughter, the second is when my husband had a 14 spread layout of a home he designed in Luxe magazine. It is something to remember and try to relieve in low times.

    Hoping your holiday season is magical Sheila!

  5. sheila says:

    Jennchez – You’re right – there’s a “vulnerability” in this scene (and in such moments) that is the most difficult thing to capture. That’s the challenge. It’s easy to jump around screaming – but to be so vulnerable to joy and possibility and accomplishment …

    You’re right: something to remember and try to relive!

  6. tracey says:

    I love how Liv Tyler has to run back and mail her letter. In her excitement, she forgets for a second. Such a tiny true moment.

    And there’s always the fuddy-duddy, isn’t there? The man in the short-sleeves, telling one of the guys to get his “cotton-pickin’ mitts” off the radio. THAT rings so true to me, too. Not the line or anything, but the fact that there IS always someone who can’t get it, won’t get it, and begrudges that you’re having it. And the girl. The girl who appears frightened by it all, especially how Steve Zahn is basically milliseconds away from throwing caution to the wind and kissing her. I love that both of these counterpoint reactions are in this scene because they ring so real-life to me. The one who begrudges and the one who fears the JOY. They’re both a kind of palate cleanser in the scene that help you digest the frenzy emotion. Like joy, joy, joy, cut to fuddy, joy, joy, joy, joy, cut to fearful, joy, joy, joy, joy, joy, JOY!

    I love it! How it becomes this EPIDEMIC of joy. Beautiful.

  7. sheila says:

    Tracey – I am in love with your analysis, something I hadn’t even really thought of or just took for granted. Yes, there has to be a holdout – because that’s what life is like – but it also just highlights the blazing joy of everyone else. The scene wouldn’t have the Oomph without the holdouts. Like, fine, shake your heads at us, but you’re just JEALOUS.

    // cut to fuddy, joy, joy, joy, joy, cut to fearful, joy, joy, joy, joy, joy, JOY! //

    hahahahahahahahahaha

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