A great way to bring in the New Year is by watching the quirky French film “A Change of Plans.” Now showing at the historic Hollywood Theater in Portland, Ore., this insightful and delightful slice of life is bookended, like “Zorba the Greek,” with dance as a metaphor for the appreciation and celebration of life.
The film begins with a stamping, clapping, passionate Spanish dance class, where our hostess awkwardly yet dramatically practices her movements at the instruction of her teacher. She leaves, reminding her teacher of the dinner party she is throwing that evening. Her husband is cooking his very special Polish stew.
The film introduces us to the guests as they prepare to arrive. No one seems too happy about going, but they will pretend. When they each arrive there is the stilted conversation and uncomfortable silences that reek pretense and uncomfortable effort. The host (and cook) meets an unhappy lady guest outside a bathroom door and the party livens up with more secrets than before.
One year passes until it is June 21 again, the date of the last dinner. How have things changed? On the inside, everything. And where do they meet this time? Coincidentally they end up at the dance instructor’s Latin dance performance. She is on fire.
“A Change of Plans” reflects our own dinner party, our own dance with life. We arrive tentative, unsure, and prepared to pretend. Then, in privacy, our lives take directions subject to our own human needs, desires and serendipitous circumstances. We have the continual choice of whether to unite with others, to join in a dance of celebration, or to retreat in loneliness, disappointment and despair.
Each guest, as each of us, has that opportunity. It’s particularly at New Year’s, when we reflect upon the year and our lives, that we make that choice once again, that yearly gamble that might also be a daily decision — to accept the invitation to join life’s dinner party, life’s celebration, life’s dance. As “A Change of Plans” points out, sometimes there are failed marriages, love affairs or inexplicable car crashes. But how we handle them is what matters. Can we join the dance in appreciation for what is, for the present that we are granted, and be grateful?
“A Change of Plans” is a French toast to life and human choice.
French Title: “Le code a change”
Director: Danièle Thompson
Writers: Christopher Thompson, Danièle Thompson
Stars: Karin Viard, Dany Boon and Marina Foïs
Runtime: 100 minutes
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