As good as I get

7 Sep

Helen Hunt as Jamie Buchman wearing a white shirt.What do you do at 5.30pm on weekdays? Nothing? Great, watch Mad About You. Seriously, you should. Beginning in 1992, it stars Helen Hunt (Jamie Buchman) and Paul Reiser (Paul Buchman) as a typical Manhattan couple. The whole premise of the show is how much Paul and Jamie love each other. It’s half an hour of pure sweetness, with self deprecating wisecracks.

Looking back on it, I’m pleased that I had early exposure to Jamie Buchman. A Yale and NYU graduate, she works as a campaign strategist for various progressive political groups around the city. She rocks a white business shirt and comes home to her film maker husband and their border collie, Murrey. I figure if I can emulate her, my adult life is going pretty well. All my white shirts have coffee stains and the last campaign I strategised was to encourage teenagers to wear broad-brimmed hats but still, let’s just say I’m on my way to achieving Buchman status.

In June I was somewhere in America, let’s say Ohio. John and I were in a hotel room watching hotel movies. As Good As It Gets came on. My parents watched it maybe eight times in the late nineties and I’m happy to say that it holds up.

Jack Nicholson plays an agoraphobic, OCD romance writer, Greg Kinear an artist recovering from a bashing and Helen Hunt the waitress/single mother who brings them together on a wacky adventure of a roadtrip. It’s one of the only movies I’ve seen recently that had actual, fully formed characters.

Helen is nurturing. She has a warm but self-mocking sense of humour. She has a way of being affectionate with those around her. But like Jamie Buchman, she has a toughness and a stridency which I admire. Twenty minutes into the movie, John told me she reminds him of me. I think of Jamie Buchman and take the compliment.

There’s a weird sexual tension between Helen and Jack that neither seem very comfortable with. Jack is impersonating a high-functioning Howard Hughes and Helen is too busy with her job and child to fuck around with someone with his kind of issues. But one night she has a reason to celebrate. She bounces into the room proclaiming to the agoraphobe and the guy on crutches “Take me out dancing!” Here John and I chuckle because I said that just a few days before.

Jack obliges and takes Helen out to dinner. She wears a red shirt-dress, a look I’ve always found flattering on my shape. She pretends to dance with the waiter, making fun of the slightly snooty restaurant. Before the lobster is even ordered, Jack accidentally says something insulting and a look appears on Helen’s face which a number of my ex-boyfriends have referred to as The Look of Fire. I can only assume I get it from the Irish side of the family. The eyes flash, the jaw tightens and, instead of looking down, I look my opponent straight in the eye. Friends, lovers and housemates are forced to buckle in its presence.

John slowly turns to look at me. He has spent many months studying my behaviour and I’d say he’s an expert by now. His eyes flick between me and Helen Hunt’s face. I stare back at her, as thought seeing my mother for the first time. So this is where I come from. We both know what’s happened. I was four years old when Mad About You first went to air. Over the next 20 years, while my personality took shape it had something to work off. Without noticing I had become, not Jamie Buchman, but Helen Hunt. Her tone, her mannerisms, everything. We watch the rest of the movie in silence, wondering if personality theft is a crime and when the feds were going to storm our room.

I sit on the bed slowly coming to terms with the fact that what I thought was Eliza-ness is actually Helen-ness. But if I must have someone else’s personality, I’m glad it’s someone who can at least achieve Jamie Buchman’s likeness.

If you’re interested here’s a video of the time Jack Nicholson came to my house .

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4 Responses to “As good as I get”

  1. mywithershins September 9, 2012 at 9:51 am #

    How cool that you are like Helen Hunt! I’ve loved everything I’ve seen her in, starting with Mad About You. 🙂

    • fixitdearhenry September 10, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

      Yeah, I’m pretty happ about it, I have to say. She appeared without make up in a movie she directed – pretty brave at the time.

      Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  2. Judge Trickibee (@trickibee) April 2, 2013 at 4:47 pm #

    That was properly gorgeous. I enjoyed it so much. And hey, if you’re going to steal someone’s personality, Helen Hunt is the soundest of decisions.

    • fixitdearhenry April 2, 2013 at 4:54 pm #

      Thanks love, that’s really sweet. Even my dad agrees that I’m basically Helen.

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