Hankies at the ready as Movies.ie counts down the five golden rules to a successful weepy.
You can’t over-estimate the promise of a good cry in cinema terms. Let’s take My Sister’s Keeper for example, which is released today. It promises to be a classic of the genre. You can’t have missed the trailer which has had heavy exposure on television (add to that the fact that the story is taken from an international bestselling book from author Jodi Picoult), a trailer which seems to have all the elements to turn the audience into emotional wrecks. A seriously ill child? Check! A strong but strained mother? Check! Emotional soundtrack? Check! And all lovingly rendered in soft focus. They’ve certainly covered all the bases and with that in mind, Movies.ie presents the golden rules of the weepy.
1. Make the cute kid suffer!
For the lady of a certain age, nothing yanks at the heartstrings like a cute child in peril and it’s the shortest route to not a dry eye in the house success. The starring child should be as cute as possible and should fall into the “suffering cheerfully” bracket. No little brats here! If you really want to crank up the weep factor make sure the mother is a “strong single mother.” She’s been hurt by men in the past and she works shifts back to back at the diner to provide for her kids but still manages to keep it together. Right on sister!
See: Little Man Tate, As Good As It Gets
2. Get the theme song right
Ok, so you’ve got your spunky heroine in serious trouble and still the audience remains stony faced! What you need to push them over the edge is the right song – something you can imagine becoming a funeral (or conversely karaoke) favourite. This song should be anthemic, sweeping and string heavy. Lyrically what you’re aiming for is declaration of love from beyond the grave/epic cheese. If you can get Bette Midler to sing it so much the better! To add to this, there should be a “love theme” – a refrain that sticks easily in the memory, perhaps rendered in plinky plonky piano!
See: Bette Midler “The Wind Beneath My Wings”, Celine Dion “My Heart Will Go On”, Aerosmith “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing”
3. Love Hurts
Ah l’amour; the perfect medium for conducting buckets of tears… just so long as you remember that as well as being balm for the troubled soul it can also be extremely traumatic. The best tactic here is to lull the audience into a false sense of security. Let the couple get together for a while, make them seem blissfully happy then BAM! Hit them with the terminal illness/natural disaster/tragic car crash! That old chestnut of the star crossed lovers works wonders also.
See: Ghost, Love Story, The Notebook, Brief Encounter
4. Groups of women
Men may come and men may go but sisterhood is for ever! Yes there’s nothing like a group of women living, loving and sharing to get bums on seats. The storyline should preferably span decades and include the following: 1. One of the girls getting pregnant 2. Somebody gets a terminal illness 3. Two of the girls falling out only to be reunited years later (preferably with one of them on their death bed). This kind of thing is always a hit; despite the recent happy shiny Mamma Mia factor, groups of girls still like a good old cry together in the cinema!
See: How to Make An American Quilt, Steel Magnolias, Beaches, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café.
5. Nobody move or the puppy gets it
So if you have some qualms about going directly for the jugular of putting a cute small child in danger, never fear; a cute dog or other cuddly creature works just as well. Countless adults still remain traumatised by their childhood encounters with Old Yeller, Bambi, Dumbo, Watership Down etc. and working with cute animals still has the potential to make grown men and women crumble. The desired effect is to make the audience return to their childhood and remember the morning they came downstairs and Bubbles was floating upside down in his tank…*sniff*
See: Marley and Me, E.T., The Snowman
My Sister’s Keeper is in Irish cinemas now!