Before the days of streaming services, my family had one of those little black boxes used to get services only the more affluent folks in our area could afford legally, like HBO. Thanks to this box, I could use the remote to watch bits of new movies. One of those movies, Hard Promises, came up frequently. I didn’t remember the details, but I remember it was a romantic comedy in which the lead did not couple up, so I had to examine it for this week’s blog.
The plot revolves around Joey Coalter (played by a pre-CSI William Petersen), a free-spirited rancher who receives an invitation to the wedding of Christy (a post-Carrie Sissy Spacek) the woman he thought was his wife. Turns out he was gone so long she decided to divorce him and marry Walt, a “nice guy.” He rushes back and tries to “win her back” (I hate that term; what is she, a prize tractor?) The movie is cheesy, and if I were looking at it through a truly critical lens, I wouldn’t give it a positive review. There are so many awful scenes, like the one where Joey climbs up the ladder, demanding to speak to Christy while the neighbors offer cookies. When they go to visit the lawyer who initiated the divorce, these neighbors continue to ride the car and offer cookies to said attorney. I groaned. And many of the things Joey does are downright despicable, like causing a scene at the rehearsal and getting Walt blackout drunk so he can seduce Christy (and there’s zero chemistry between Petersen and Spacek, so I just don’t see how she can fall for him). There’s also this annoying slide guitar twang that hits the soundtrack every time Joey’s about to do something mischievous.
So why do I include this movie? There are a few really good scenes/subtexts that show promise of what the film could have been, and they offer a pro-singlehood message:
1)In the opening scene, Joey spins a yarn to his fellow ranchers (could be BS) about the time a naked woman approached him on a beach in Tahiti, smiled, and walked away. When his fellow ranchers razz him about not “closing the deal,” he says, “I didn’t have to. It was a perfect moment.” It shows he might just be a tad liberated. 2)Everybody in town rightly believes Christy should marry Walt and stay away from Joey, but nobody gets on Joey to “settle down,” like they would in many movies. They know Joey’s just not wired for a domestic life. 3)At the “Dark Night of the Soul” moment of the film, Joey gets a job in town, hoping to stay to be close to Christy. When he tells his best friend Pinky this, Pinky responds, “That’s great,” with a sad, confused look. Joey looks even sadder. When he tells this to Christy, she tells him, “Don’t do that! You’ll be miserable!” I thought, yes!This goes against the grain! 4)Joey gets his redemption arc toward the end, when he realizes Walt and Christy are a better match. They want the “domestic life,” and to be fair, the movie doesn’t judge anybody for their choices. Upon his last dance with Christy at the wedding (which seems to provide closure for both of them), he tells Walt, “Go dance with your wife.” He then tells his married friend Pinky, “I could never do what you do.” An awesome moment of self-awareness. Pinky seems to admire Joey for the nomadic lifestyle that he never could do (and as happy a singleton as I am, I’m not sure I could do that anymore either; I like having a home base). 5)He is a good father and loves his daughter, Beth; the feeling is mutual, and in the last scene, he promises Beth he’ll take her on some of his adventures. And I believe he will.
Final analysis: Joey is what Bella might call a “single at heart.” He’s just grown up in a small town and been conditioned to society’s norm of the “relationship escalator,” and the conflict he faces is more within himself than with Christy or Walt. I’m glad the movie ends with him resolving it. While I decry the film at the beginning of this post, it’s worth a viewing if it’s late at night and you need some ice cream for the brain combined with a pro-singlehood message.