Sandra Benedetto: Returning to a Point of No Return

The first time I saw the movie Point of No Return, shortly after it came out in the early 90s, I was a late blooming fourteen-year-old. I spent a lot of time wondering if breasts were in my future, had yet to experience my first kiss, and was still several years away from falling in love. Ever since I’d seen the movie Willow I’d been harboring a secret but ardent desire for Val Kilmer’s Madmartigan to sweep me away on horseback, but that didn’t really count. There had been several “likes”, including a “boyfriend” whom I never talked to outside of school, and a crush on an older boy at summer camp, but no requited, acted-upon love.

I didn’t have solid expectations for what that would be like, either. My friends’ relationships with their boyfriends seemed both overly dramatic and fleeting, which made me skeptical that they were the real thing. Forget about looking to adults. Parents might love each other, but they couldn’t be in love, right? Enter Bridget Fonda and Dermot Mulroney to paint the picture of romance.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, or haven’t seen it lately, a synopsis: Bridget Fonda’s drug-addled character (Maggie) kills someone in a robbery gone wrong, and in lieu of a death sentence is given the opportunity to become an elite government assassin. She becomes awesome at her new trade, but starts to have doubts after getting romantically involved with Dermot Mulroney’s character. Gabriel Byrne plays the role of her handler, and I’m not really sure if his possessive “handling” is paternalistic or love-struck, which is neither here nor there. Needless to say, he isn’t keen on letting his best assassin walk away, so Maggie has to decide between her obligation and her hot manpiece. I won’t spoil the ending, yet, but I think it’s safe to say that whichever path she chooses, she’s screwed.

I’m not saying anything about the quality of the film. In fact, it’s hard for me to be objective, because when I re-watched it recently I became aware of how deeply it had imprinted itself on my adolescent psyche. What I can say is that the filmmakers knew exactly how to establish dangerously high expectations for romantic relationships in the mind of a fourteen-year-old girl. According to the film, love is:

– meeting Dermot Mulroney in line at the grocery store

– sexualizing the act of chewing canned ravioli

– painting your new apartment together during a musical montage

– a goofy photography session that yields seductive images*

– slow dancing in the dark to Nina Simone records

– being disrobed while ordering room service

– being proposed to while fulfilling your mission as a secret assassin

– flaunting your love in the face of your jealous fake uncle with the real Irish brogue

– destined to end before it had a chance to get boring

– in case I wasn’t explicit enough in #1, Dermot Mulroney

* your lover must be an artist

This movie set me up for disappointment, but maybe not how you’d think. It’s true that I have since become disillusioned, but not with romance. Real life love has proven to be diverting enough, profound enough, and unpredictable enough to replace my pre-love notions about what it should feel like.

I’m just sad that I don’t believe in this excellent movie’s version of passion anymore. You could say that I passed the point of no return (but you wouldn’t). For one thing, I didn’t even care that I hadn’t just put a bullet in someone’s head when my husband proposed. Furthermore, I realized that I don’t want to suck another person’s half-chewed pasta into my mouth, even if that person is Dermot Mulroney. I mean, I would, but I don’t think it would be that hot.  Heartbreaking, isn’t it? I bet Nina could relate.

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