Making the Grades
A woman once told me she wished she could marry every man she meets for half an hour... just long enough to make his life wonderful. However, my years of chuckling over her comment turned to astonishment after seeing Sweet November, a movie that proposes a similar plan.
After busy ad exec Nelson (Keanu Reeves) asks Sara (Charlize Theron) to help him cheat on a driver's license exam, her test is disqualified, leaving Nelson feeling obligated to be Sara's taxi. What he doesn't know is Sara is evaluating him for her next "experiment."
Convinced Nelson hasn't found joy in his life, Sara reveals her true intentions when she invites him to move in and spend November under her tutelage. At month's end he will leave a new man, just like Mr. October and others before him. At first Nelson rejects the ludicrous idea, but after losing his job and girlfriend, he finds himself on Sara's doorstep. There he begins his transformation under Sara's direction and with help from her homosexual neighbor and a fatherless boy across the street.
Certainly the idea of turning a workaholic into a sensitive guy is attractive and worthwhile, but it doesn't take a genius to discover a romp on the beach with an attractive woman is a lot more fun than writing ad pitches. Even more bothersome is Sara's 30-day treatment comes off as nothing more than an exercise to convince Nelson to participate in her "take it slow" sexual preferences as opposed to his "drive-through" sexual behavior.
As Nelson undergoes Sara's instructions, we witness bedroom banter with clothed foreplay, a bathtub scene containing bare-ly enough bubbles, a visit with their transvestite neighbors, and a "carefully" filmed scene of the naked couple engaged in sex.
However, careful observation reveals that for all her criticism of Nelson, Sara is just as unwilling to make a commitment, using a serious personal crisis to justify her rejection of his marriage proposal. Abandoning commitment in favor of physical gratification, Sara's quick fix will likely have short-term effects on Nelson while leaving a long lasting impression on young viewers.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Sweet November.
What non-sexual solutions could Sara have tried with Nelson to have a positive effect on his life?
If you’ve seen the movie, what do you think will happen to Nelson in the weeks and months ahead? Do you think he has permanently changed in a positive way? Or will he return to his former lifestyle?
Why is commitment often overlooked in movies?