Maybe it's the effect of mid-winter doldrums, but nearly every time I spotted that poster, I became possessed by the need to step into the world it depicts. If only I were Mary Poppins, I said to myself, and had her power of leaping into pictures.
As anyone who has seen Mary Poppins knows — wasn't it everyone's favorite film as a kid, or was I an Anglophile even back then? — Mary, Bert, and her two wards jump into one of Bert's chalk-pavement drawings. They land in an animated countryside, replete with merry-go-round and dancing penguins.
But in the case of this poster, I'd be landing on a train that's just left Paris for Venice just as a math teacher from Wisconsin (Depp) encounters a femme-fatale-and-a-half (Jolie).
Okay, maybe this 'oliday won't be so jolly (haha) given that the poster's tagline reads: "Perfect Trip. Perfect Trap." But what would be the fun of travel without a whiff of danger about it? Even in Mary Poppins, the chalk-painting scene ends in a madcap horse race that has us kids on the edge of our seats ...
So that's this winter's escapist fantasy. The only thing is, I can't quite sustain it. By the time I've finished walking my dogs, I'm having my doubts. I just think the plot could have been so much richer, and more convincing, if the Depp character had been an expat, not a tourist.
In my experience, being a tourist rarely affords such exciting opportunities. Or if it does, you're far too preoccupied with how you're going to get to your hotel without being ripped off, fend off jet lag, and find a cash point machine that takes your Cirrus card, to appreciate the thrill of mysterious strangers. And you certainly don't have the psychic energy required to give their intrigues the time of day.
But spending chunks of time overseas: that puts you in the kind of zone where you're open to the idea that anything can happen (it often does). Little by little, life takes on a cinematic, unreal quality.
Here is why I think an expat's life is so much more film-like than a tourist's:
There I am, all those years ago, flouncing around in my Laura Ashley dresses and Liberty print skirts as a graduate student at a British university.
Oh, and there I am again, a housewife in a provincial English town, sporting my Marks & Sparks separates.
And now look: I've moved to Japan and am approaching a glass-fronted office building in a demure Audrey Hepburnish suit adorned with silk scarf and pearls. Goodness me, was I really wearing my hair pulled back in a snood back then?
|ML OLENSKA: |
Irene Dunne is one up on me:
I have the opera-length pearls
but no opera gloves.
In England, I experienced everything from serious crime to fear of terrorist attacks. It was an era when people traveled into Central London with a certain trepidation lest the Provisional IRA had left another car bomb outside Harrods. It was also an era of unemployment, linked to rising crime.
Japan, too, despite its reputation for being safe and staid, offered dangers aplenty. I was in Tokyo when the Great Hanshin earthquake struck Kobe and pandemonium ensued. And, little did we expats suspect that just a few months later, we'd be coping with sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway. Several people perished in the station just down the street from where I lived, and there were warnings for several weeks afterwards about further attacks. That was pretty petrifying.
|TIME RUNNING BACKWARDS? |
Expats in Japan can relate.
England is the land of the lace curtain, something Agatha Christie, the Queen of Mystery, understood all too well. (Don't know about lace curtains? They permit you to see out while others can't see in...)
As for Japan, that's a country where most foreigners feel as though they've stepped through the looking glass because pretty much everything is the opposite of what they've experienced before. And unlike Alice, most do not emerge unscathed.
At about this point, you're probably thinking I've forgotten about how life overseas can be just as humdrum as it is back home. All I can say is: get with the program.
Chances are, if you're reading this post, you're the kind of expat who, if the going gets really rough, as it has in Libya right now, can expect to be rescued by your government in a plane or a boat.
So take it from me, your resident repat: time to own the aura of glamor, danger, and allure that goes hand-in-hand with a privileged expat existence.
And don't be afraid of looking like a fool when swanning around in your kimono or Scottish Highland kilt. The Tourist itself had pretensions of being a Hitchcock-style thriller, only to be lambasted by critics. Nevertheless, it got a Golden Globe nomination — in "comedy."
No shame in that, though I would expect your version, which will be entitled The Expat, to succeed in paying homage to Hitch, since you have the material. And you know the other good thing about that title? It anticipates the sequel: The Rex-Pat.
Now if that doesn't scream Oscar potential, I don't know what does.
Instant Poll: Which one gets your vote when it comes to thrills and glamor: tourist or expat?