Making the Grades
About a year ago I finally found the nerve to sign up for my first semester of Spanish classes at a local college. Being back on campus was a bit scary but attending with students the same age as my children was really intimidating. Yet saying “yes” to that lifelong goal has been more rewarding than I ever imagined.
Like Carl Allen (Jim Carrey), the main character in Yes Man, it is often easier to decline an opportunity than take a chance on the unknown. The fear of failure or commitment can be overwhelming. But Carl’s thoughtless refusals are making him a pathetic, lonely human being and leaving him lost in a dead end job. The reality of his situation sets in when he fails to show up for his best friend’s (Bradley Cooper) engagement party.
Not long after the missed event, Carl is invited to a Say Yes convention. At the revival-type gathering, he is publicly challenged by the movement’s guru (Terence Stamp) to a year-long covenant to agree to all offers. Fearing the wrath of the universe if he breaks his promise, Carl begins to consent to every invitation he gets. Within days, he is taking flying lessons, going to all night parties and learning a new language.
His willingness to concur opens up all kinds of unforeseen opportunities, promotions, and an introduction to a local musician. Allison (Zooey Deschanel), a free-spirited artist, is attracted by Carl’s will-do attitude. But their relationship hits a bump when she discovers his positive responses are all part of a contract.
Unfortunately, Carl says “yes” to offers as blindly as he declined them before. Though his life is richly enhanced by his new approach to living, his lack of discernment and anxiety about messing with fate leads him to engage in some dangerous and offensive activities including drinking excessively and accepting sexual favors from an elderly neighbor. Equally distasteful is the scripts frequent use of profanities and a sexual expletive, along with a hearty dose of crass, sexual innuendo and brief male buttock nudity. Giving up his agency to choose, Carl also becomes the target of individuals who take advantage of his ridiculous pledge.
Opening oneself to new ideas and requests is good. But accepting them without employing the good sense to weigh his options and answer honestly threatens to jeopardize all the benefits of Carl’s new lifestyle. While no one likes a perpetual stick-in-the-mud, parents will soon discover that this incessant Yes Man introduces a whole list of judgment-impaired scenarios and concerns for family viewers.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Yes Man.
How does Carl’s negative attitude impact those around him? How does it affect the way others perceive him and his abilities?
What challenge or opportunity would you like to pursue? What is holding you back? What benefits would saying “yes” to your desire bring?