We occasionally have Movie Night around our house. I kind of like to consider this one of my parenting contributions. Katie has her things; what, with the encouraging morals and values and preparing our children to be valiant, contributing members of society. But when it comes to introducing superheroes, Hobbits, Indiana Jones (with the face melting edited out), or the comical genius of Steve Martin and Martin Short singing “My Little Buttercup"...it's best to just leave that in my hands.
Recently Abbie, my fifteen year old, asked if we could watch Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. I remember when it came out in theaters; which is saying something, because I don’t think it was there for very long. She had already seen it at somebody else’s house while babysitting. She’d even asked if we could watch it on a previous Movie Night, but I dismissed it because we needed to watch Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs for a third time, instead.
Our lovely Abbie (on the right) and our cute Becca.
Having no real defense for not watching it, and recognizing that she had been patient when I turned my nose up at it the first time, I agreed. I was also interested to see why it was that Abbie loved it so. I was hoping maybe it would tell me something about her.
Now, please recognize that I am not recommending this movie to you. I don’t know your tastes; and this is a quirky movie that is certainly not everyone’s cup of Postum. But I will admit that this movie affected me, though in a way that I won’t suggest would or should affect everybody. But the stars kind of aligned for me, I guess, and it was a perfect storm.
In a nutshell, here is the story. Natalie Portman plays a 23 year-old musical prodigy, and works for Dustin Hoffman, the Mr. Magorium of said Wonder Emporium, which is essentially a magical wonderland. Now, when Natalie was younger, everyone told her she was a musical genius, a brilliant pianist. That she was special. And she believed them. But now she has grown up, and isn’t so sure.
There is no mention of Natalie’s parents, but Mr. Magorium is somewhat of a father figure to her. And she clearly cares for him, as if she were a daughter. So she is shocked the day that Mr. Magorium tells her that he is “leaving this life.” He is not depressed, and this is not about suicide. He has magically lived for more than a hundred years, and it’s simply “time to go.” He is not upset by this. But whoa-nelly, Natalie sure is! And she is not flattered that he wants to leave the store to her. On the contrary, she believes nobody can or should run the store but him; least of all, her. But before he goes, he gives her this wonderful, inspiring speech you can see below in this clip from the movie. He also tells her that she has this something in her. This sparkle. This uniqueness that makes her divine.
But Natalie still doesn’t feel it.
After Mr. M is gone, there’s a scene where Natalie and Jason Bateman (who plays the no-nonsense accountant that Mr. Magorium hires to figure out what the store is worth) are in the store, after-hours, alone. It’s quiet, and she stands before Jason and asks him, “When you look at me, what do you see?”
“Really pretty eyes?” he guesses.
And she timidly asks back, “Do you see a sparkle?”
She tries again. “Something reflective of something bigger, trying to get out.”
And that’s when I felt the lump in my throat.
I’m not exactly sure what that was about, but I believe it had something to do with my daughter. Maybe it’s because I could see similarities between Abbie and Natalie’s physical features, so I projected Abbie into that situation. Maybe it was because I thought of how Abbie was probably seeing herself in Natalie. Maybe it’s because I felt I was watching the story of a father, lovingly wanting to instill this confidence in his daughter, of how incredible and lovely and talented and capable and sparkly and delightful she is…and then to no longer be the prominent male figure in her life, because he is not there and she has grown up…and now she stands before this other man, and in complete vulnerability, asks him if he sees greatness in her. If he recognizes a sparkle. Asking him to validate the feelings and truths that were planted there years before.
And then my favorite part, at the end of the movie (spoiler alert), when Natalie has experienced the needed opportunities to prove to herself that she is all that Mr. Magorium promised her she was, and then – then, Jason Bateman sees the sparkle. Once she believed in herself, the sparkle was evident.
This is what the movie left me quietly reflecting on: I hope that despite my flaws and massive imperfections, my children believe me when I tell them there is greatness in them; that they sparkle. I hope they will remember their childhood and youth as a time they marinated in love. I hope that I am providing the opportunities they need to face experiences that require them to look up, rise up, and walk up; and that when they rise to the occasion, they recognize it. And that whomever they decide to spend their life and eternity with will see the sparkle and enhance it.