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Comfort movies for trying times

This week, many people have been sharing their favorite “comfort movies” on TikTok. With our return home next week and the impending doom of finals, I think a comfort movie or two is well overdue.

Below are my five favorite comfort movies. These films have seen me through some sad days, and I hope they bring you joy and provide you solace in these trying times. 

  1. ‘Heartbreakers’ (Netflix)

I found “Heartbreakers” in high school, and I’ve been attached to it ever since. While this movie is a work of comedic genius and pure originality, I resonate with it for different reasons.

In the film, Page Conners (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and her mother (Sigourney Weaver) con men out of their money by marrying them, getting them to cheat and taking home big bucks in the divorce proceedings. When Page wants to strike out on her own as an independent con-woman, her mother convinces her that the IRS has taken all their money and is pressing charges for tax evasion and fraud. They decide to head to Palm Beach for one last big con together, planning to take a part of the fortune of a cigarette empire headed by William Tensy. In the process, Page decides to do a covert con of her own on a wealthy doctor but ends up in the path of a bar owner (Jason Lee) who possesses a highly desired piece of land. 

This movie is my favorite comfort film because of the relationship between Page and Jack the bar owner. In the beginning, Page treats Jack horribly. She’s rude, blunt and condescending, but Jack sees through all of her defenses and recognizes her insecurities when no one else does. He responds back to her aggressive digs with snarky comebacks that make for the best one-liners in the film. He treats Page with kindness and respect when no one else in the film gives her any, and he appreciates her for the goodness in her heart, even when it’s not apparent. 

Ultimately, this film gives me hope that, no matter how many walls I put up, there will be someone willing to climb over them.

  1. ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’ (Amazon Prime)

Wes Anderson movies, by nature, serve as a unique blend between warm nostalgia and kitsch storytelling. However, no movie of his exemplifies this better than “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” As a child, this was one of the few movies my family rented from Family Video twice, and perhaps those positive memories are at the root of my love for this movie. That being said, the film has a lot more to offer in terms of comfort quality.

In this stop-motion film, Mr. Fox (George Clooney) is a middle-aged newspaper writer living in a small mud den with his wife (Meryl Streep) and son (Jason Schwartzman). Fed up with his sad existence, Mr. Fox takes out a large loan and moves to a tree near three poultry farms. He robbed such farms for a living in his heyday, but made a promise to his wife to stop after they were caught. He breaks this promise shortly after moving in, resulting in forest-wide chaos at the hands of the three vengeful farm owners.

In the movie, Mr. Fox goes from a nobody to the most hated animal in the forest, then to the most loved animal and back to the most hated. In his quest to impress his peers, Mr. Fox makes frequent blunders and disappoints himself as well as the people who love him most. He’s a very human fox in that way. Who doesn’t want everyone to be “knocked out and dazzled and slightly intimidated” by them? And who hasn’t made mistakes in the process? This movie is a perfect reminder that we all muck things up sometimes and that being different is okay. In fact, it’s what makes us special.

  1. ‘Coraline’ (Netflix)

I know what you’re thinking: how could one of the creepiest pieces of children’s animation ever made be a comfort movie? But hear me out.

The whole premise of “Coraline” is that Coraline Jones (Dakota Fanning) is disillusioned with her life with her real parents. That’s what makes the world of the “other mother” so seductive. Let’s be honest: Real life sucks sometimes, and we all seek out our own form of escapism. Throughout the story, Coraline realizes that the glory of the other mother’s world comes at far too big a price, much like the forms of escape we choose, from media and entertainment to substances. 

When Coraline realizes that she’s in over her head, she feels like she alone has to fix the problem. It’s easy to feel that way while struggling, but behind the scenes, people like Ms. Spink and Forcible, Wybie, Mr. Bobinski and even the black cat have her back and are supporting her. Her story offers a strong message of hope.

  1. ‘Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium’ (HBO Max)

As a child, I strongly resonated with the character of Eric (Zach Mills) in “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium,” a story about a dying toy-store owner named Mr. Magorium and his impact on those around him. I, like Eric, was an awkward kid and really struggled to make friends. Seeing another kid deal with the same problems I had was refreshing and, like many of the other films on this list, gave me the important reminder that it’s okay to be a little strange.

As I got older, though, I slowly grew into the role of Mahoney (Natalie Portman), the once gifted kid who becomes “stuck” as she enters adulthood. Gifted kid burnout is all too real, and I, like Mahoney, find myself stuck as an adult-ish individual who relies on the praise of others that sometimes goes unreceived.

I, too, feel stuck sometimes. I don’t know where to take my life or what to do. I cling to the familiar things of my childhood in order to avoid the harsh reality that I don’t really know what I’m doing.

But in the end, everything ends up okay. Mahoney finally steps up to her new role and Eric makes friends. The growing process isn’t easy; it’s a tear-filled struggle with self-doubt and feelings of worthlessness. But it isn’t hopeless. They succeeded and we will too.

  1. ‘Big Fish’ (Amazon Prime)

As far as comfort movies go, I don’t really have an explanation for this one. It just makes me feel good. The sets in this film are breathtaking, the animation is far ahead of its time and the all-star cast puts on a performance unlike any other. 

Ewan McGregor perfectly embodies the role of a young Edward Bloom. He’s charming, idealistic and a hopeless romantic—what more could you ask for?

Underscoring the story of the young Bloom is the story of a tense relationship between a father and son. Will Bloom (Billy Crudup) struggles to reconcile the elaborate stories his dying father (Albert Finney) has always presented as the truth. The back-and-forth between the extraordinary world of Edward Bloom’s youth and the “real” world of Will Bloom is balanced perfectly in this film, with the acting talent of Jessica Lange, Helena Bonham Carter, Danny DeVito, Steve Buscemi and a young Miley Cyrus as welcomed additions. 

The story has love, action and a heart-wrenching ending. It is the ideal movie to have a sob-cry to. (I know it seems contradictory that I called this a “feel good movie,” but I promise I have a huge smile while I’m bawling my eyes out.)

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