Sali Hughes on the films that shaped her life
#4 MRS. DOUBTFIRE — THE JUDGEMENT FILM
MRS. DOUBTFIRE. HIS favourite film was Mrs. Doubtfire, and I’m still not over it. I could just about cope with the fact that my mate’s new boyfriend wore hoof-toed trainers. I could even ignore his disparaging comments about women with tattoos and insistence on choosing wine for the whole table without consultation. But Mrs. Doubtfire? With all the thousands of acceptable answers to a simple question, he went with that. The man had found my limit.
Is it ever okay to judge someone by their taste in films? I figure I’m preaching to the choir here, but I’ve previously taken a dim view. A colleague once advertised for a flatmate, stipulating that those who preferred Star Trek to Star Wars need not apply. I told him he was a pillock, but Mr Doubtfire has caused me to wonder if I’m really so far behind. Could I ever cultivate a lasting friendship with someone who believed Dreamworks animation to be better than Pixar? Meet The Fockers funnier than Meet The Parents? Someone who, on Oscar night 1995, cheered not for Pulp Fiction, but for Forrest
Gump? I no longer have either the time or the inclination to build that wide a cultural bridge.
In my relative dotage, I feel increasingly that a new person’s favourite movies are as reliable a quality control as their stance on Blur Vs Oasis, or Remain Vs Brexit. One of the reasons we consume TV, music and films is to fulfil our emotional and spiritual needs, so our favourites are key signifiers in our values and worldview. Friendships are founded on this stuff, so why not search for cultural clues to the person behind the Sky+ box?
My judgement isn’t reserved for mediocrity. There are other proven indicators of personal incompatibility. Any man who loves Jacob’s Ladder or even the great Apocalypse Now above all others may well be lovely and interesting, but experience has taught me he’s also a bit broken. Likewise, if you can’t laugh at The Jerk or Wayne’s World, you’re going to think my sense of humour wearyingly puerile and we have no future.
It’s not about intellectual snobbery either. There’s nothing drearier than some bore who quacks on about their favourite films being Seven Samurai, Metropolis or L’atalante, appalled at the very mention of a Clueless, Boogie Nights or Caddyshack (I love all three — so shoot me). Your favourite film doesn’t need to be feted by the BFI or snottier broadsheets. People feel what they feel. But I’m afraid there are films that are objectively brilliant and films that are objectively bloody awful or, worse still, made entirely of “meh”. Liking Mrs. Doubtfire is fine. I liked Shutter Island — it doesn’t mean I want it played at my funeral. “Favourite” is the damning indictment here, because really, any adult who genuinely believes that about Mrs. Doubtfire hasn’t seen enough films and has no business dining out when they should be welded to their DVD player until further notice.
It boils down to passion. If someone is uninterested in my film collection but obsessed with kung-fu movies, sci-fi or fantasy (none of which are my personal bucket of popcorn), then I know that, on some level, they’re my kind of person. Because they care, because they truly love film. And that, I’m no longer ashamed to admit, is enough for me to love them. She dumped Mr Doubtfire, of course. He’s now back in the dating game, presumably seeking his Miss Evan Almighty.
Robin Williams mulls over the million-dollar question: what’s your favourite movie?