My Life In Ruins (2009)

Photo Source: Wikipedia

Directed by: Donald Petrie (1)

Cast: Nia Vardalos (2), Caroline Goodall (3), Richard Dreyfuss (4), Rita Wilson (5), Ian Ogilvy, Rachel Dratch, and Harland Williams

My favourite quote – “How do you plan life?”

Dear Readers, forgive me for I’ve been missing in action. My last entry was September 14, 2014.

It’s funny. I thought after leaving Mediacorp I’d have more time to write in my blog. But I didn’t. Blog much that is. And I apologise for my long absence. With more time to spend with my family and friends, I found myself going out more often after work and during the weekends. I guess you could say that I was slowly picking up the pieces of my social life, which was in “ruins” at the time.

Now with the new year I’m picking up the slack again with the film My Life In Ruins.

Most everyone has already done a reflection piece or an entry about their new resolutions, but I haven’t. But I’ve never really been very good at keep resolutions. So I’ll just keep them to myself and show, not tell.

2014 has been quite a game changer for me with regards to my career and my future goals, just like Georgia Ianakopolis, Nia Vardalos’ character in the film My Life In Ruins. As such, let us begin 2015 with a look at this particular film.

My Life In Ruins is a film about a professor of classical history who lost her job and is now working as a tour guide for a Greek tour agency called Pangloss Tours. She feels like she’s hit rock bottom and after a series of incidents decides to throw in the towel. But her last tour turns out to be a life changing experience. After all, “how do you plan life?”

Life, As You Like It

While My Life In Ruins isn’t a critically acclaimed film, it has it’s shining moments. And the scene below is why it affected me so greatly. Especially whenever I am feeling low or unsure about the path ahead.

I dislike uncertainty. However, life is filled with uncertainty. Some times, just when you think things are going swimmingly, life kicks you in the bum and spits you out onto oncoming traffic. And then some times, when you think you’re in the shits, life throws you a bone and picks you up. That is why I love this scene.

Georgia: Standing in the middle of culture and history and they want a 50/50 poly-cotton t-shirt with a picture of a Trojan horse. Why am I spending my life showing tourists gorgeous ancient ruins they care nothing about? And Pangloss Tours pays lousy. They book the worst hotel rooms. I don’t have any friends here. I actually don’t know anybody, really. I haven’t had sex in forever.
Poupi: Forever is a long time.
Georgia: You speak English?
Poupi: Yes.
Souvlaki owner: I do too. 42 Euros.
Georgia: That’s great. Anybody else? (Everyone else in the line behind her raises their hands) Excellent. Excuse me. Nice to meet you. Excuse me. Bye. You must think I’m crazy.
Poupi: Yes.
Georgia: Why would you not tell me?
Poupi: I thought you needed to talk. I have 3 sisters. So talk.
Georgia: Do you ever question what you’re doing with your life?
Poupi: No.
Georgia: What?
Poupi: Talk more about the ‘no sex’.
Georgia: Yeah I’m good. Thanks. You don’t question? Come on. Greece is the land of philosophers.
Poupi: Yes. But that is their job. My job is to drive the bus. You know, it pays better.
Georgia: Come on, you don’t have a life plan?
Poupi: How do you plan life?
Georgia: What?
Poupi: Come on. We’ll get some coffee and you can talk.
Georgia: What? We’re working.
Poupi: Everyone has to take the time to have some coffee.
Georgia: That is the typical ‘Greek’ mentality.
Poupi: Woman where is your ‘Kefi’?
Georgia: I have ‘kefi’. I have lots of ‘kefi’
Poupi: No. No you don’t.
Gerogia: Yes I do.
Poupi: No. That’s why you’re so uptight and skinny.

I was facing the same thing Georgia was at the start of 2014. I was bone dry and feeling burnt out. I felt like I was travelling in an endless dark tunnel. There was no way out. And I was on that path for so long it felt like there was no turning back. I was stuck. You don’t know why you’re doing what you’re doing anymore.

That’s when I started seriously asking myself the same question Georgia was asking, “what are you doing with your life?” As mentioned in my earlier post about adventure, I asked the right questions and found answers. I found a way out of the tunnel. Then I planned accordingly to what life had in store for me.

Life doesn’t always go the way you want it to. The trick is to go where the wind blows and make the best of it.

In the film, Georgia’s major transformation is brought about by 2 men. Poupi, her driver. And Irv, a tourist in her group who much wiser than he initially seems to be.

Irv’s Wisdom

This scene introduces us to the real Irv, hidden behind the lame jokes and antics. And I’m always a sucker for wise words about love and marriage. So you can see why this calls out to me.

Irv: You know I was a much nicer guy when my wife was alive. She died 3 years ago. She used to say to me ‘They don’t know you’re kidding Irv.” She would say “You’re not as funny as you think you are”, just like you.
Georgia: It’s nice you had a good marriage.
Irv: We fought every day. I took her to Egypt. We fought all day about whether the pyramids were ‘majestic’ or ‘magnificent’. It was magic. 28 years. I woke up everyday, smiling.
Georgia: I could live with that.
Irv: You got the potential. All you gotta do is let it happen. You know, relax. Open up.

Like Georgia, I too would love to “wake up everyday, smiling” and experience that kind of “magic” he had with his wife.

And I think he’s right. “All you gotta do is let it happen.” I found my current partner at a time when I pretty much was open to the possibility of finding Mr Right without applying too much hope and pressure of finding him. And it just happened. Well, I think he’s Mr Right. I hope he’s Mr Right. But I’ll let you know if there’s any changes. Cross your fingers for me please.

Georgia: I know every fact and every figure about this place. I mean, I love it here. And they just wanna have fun. And I get it. But I don’t how to make this job fun.
Irv: Well you if you call it a job, it ain’t fun. I mean look at porn stars. They get to shtup all day, they should be happy, you never hear about a happy porn star. I had the best job in the whole world.
Georgia: You were a porn star?
Irv: Heh heh heh.
Georgia: No really, were you?
Irv: I was an ice cream taster.
Georgia: Get out!
Irv: 35 years.
Georgia: I wish I had that job.
Irv: That’s what my friends used to say. But then, Elinor got sick and I had to take care of her. She always wanted to come to Greece.

You know that saying about work not being work if you love what you do. I think it’s a matter of perspective. Like Mary Poppins says, “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and – SNAP – the job’s a game! And every task you undertake becomes a piece of cake.”

I was terrified of my new life in Travelzoo. I didn’t know if I would be able to get along with my new colleagues. I didn’t know if I would love my job. After more than 6 months on the job, I’d say I’ve come to love what I do. Its vastly different from what I had initially planned to do for the rest of my life. But as Poupi says, “how do you plan life?”

Now the following scene is what I love most about Irv. His advice is sound and he says the most apt things when he’s not trying too hard to be Mr Funny.

Irv: Alright. The Oracle is open.
Georgia: Any questions?
Lena: Are my legs good enough for a mini skirt?
Irv: Hubba hubba.
Marc: Wait, wait, wait. I’ve got a serious question. Am I ever gonna have cell reception up here?
Irv: Turn the damn phone off. This is a vacation.
Lala: Why did my husband cheat on me?
Irv: It wasn’t you he cheated. Some men cheat themselves out of living a life with a woman they love.
Lala: Thank you.
Kim: Ok. Urm… I’ve always wanted to start a family but…
Alan: Well, Big Al’s gonna just come out and say it. Urm… I’m scared.
Irv: Being a parent is the best thing in the world. And I guarantee it, you’re gonna be a great dad.
Kim: See.
Alan: Thanks Irv. Irvacle. Orvacle.
Elizabeth: Well go on Caitlin, ask a question. Go.
Caitlin: No.
Elizabeth: Will my daughter ever stop sulking?
Caitlin: Will my parents ever stop fighting?
Irv: Parents sometimes forget that they are an example.
Stewart: Thank you.

Did any of his “advice” help you? I hope so. Although I can’t say I can relate to all or any of the situations mentioned in the scene, I will always recall Irv’s wisdom if I encounter it in the future or if someone I know does.

Now that all the heavy and thought provoking stuff is out of the way, let’s look at the fun bits. After all, My Life In Ruins is a romantic comedy.

What Kind Of Tourist Are You?

I have always preferred travelling free and easy rather than to go on a tour. With tours, you never know who your travel mates are and I always worry that I might not get along with people on the tour. That said, I think the film exaggerates and stereotypes. Not all Americans, Aussies, or Canadians behave the way as they do in the film. However, you do get some types who do fit the profile as described by Georgia in the scene below.

Maria: Georgia, again you cut out beach day?
Georgia: They can go to the beach in any country. On my tour I teach them about ancient architecture.
Maria: Maria I disagree.
Georgia: It’s open.
Maria: You didn’t get the job. Don’t you read the evaluations? What do you think of Georgia as tour director. Average. Average. Average.
Georgia: So I’m average.
Maria: Average is the lowest box you can check. You think we have something that says ‘stinks’? If we did you’d be ‘stinks’. They find your tour boring.
Georgia: My tourists are boring. I think I’ve guided like 34 tours and you give me the same tourists over and over again. Look! There they are. The tipsy Australians. The obnoxious Americans. The miserable marriages. The ‘disgusted-with-men-but-still-looking’ divorcees. Oh and of course, the old people. Ah… I don’t see Mr Funny.
Maria: Who?
Georgia: There’s always one annoying guy who thinks he’s the life of the party. Canadians. Awww… Polite Canadians. Can I have ’em?
Maria: No. They’re Group A. Nico’s group.
Georgia: Why does Nico always get the good group.
Maria: His evaluations don’t say ‘Average’.

I can relate to Nia Vardalos’ Georgia because I am a fan of ancient Greece too. When I visited Greece and saw the Parthenon, explored Santorini and the discovered the second largest city in Greece, Thessaloniki, I loved it because it has so much history and culture.

Alan: Dry wall, new roof, walk-in-closet.
Kim: Hey.
Kim & Alan: Flip that house.
Georgia: That’s a joke. I’m sure that’s a joke. Cos making it new would not make it more beautiful. The point is, it’s ancient. It’s ancient. I mean look at it. Isn’t it beautiful.
Nico: Come this way. Beautiful people. Nico puts the ‘gloss’ into ‘Pangloss’, Yes. Now come around please, come around. Come around please. That’s the temple there. Very nice, yes. Enough culture. Now souvenirs, yes? Who want that temple made of soap?

I see the beauty she sees in ancient Greece.

Some people see ruins and rocks, I see a story that begs to be heard. That is why I wish to go back to Greece again some day. So that I can learn more about the ruins and the history behind it all.

History – It’s All In The Delivery

Georgia: Hey, yesterday I quit. This is my last tour.
Irv: Well, it’s my last tour too.
Dorcas: Georgie, how did they columns fall over.
Georgia: Well, there was 2 earthquakes in the 5th to 6th century…
(Irv clears his throat)
Georgia: The columns fell over from the incredible pull of Ulysses’ love.
Dorcas: Aww… Ain’t that sweet.
Irv: Better.
Georgia: Better?

When I was in Secondary School I didn’t have a choice and had to read History. For my GCE ‘O’ Levels, my Literature paper was a day before my History paper. I had to make a choice. I wanted to read Literature in Junior College so I brushed up on my Literature instead of studying for both.

I ended up getting a C5 for Literature and a B3 for History.

And I fully attribute it to my History teacher. I can’t remember her name now, but I remember her stories. She told us stories about Singapore during World War II, and about wars in Europe and how it affected us. And that’s how I remembered my facts. I think she fueled my interest in History but that interest in it happened much later in life.

Irv: You know how you like to get up in front of everybody and bore us?
Georgia: Please go on.
Irv: I have a very exciting idea. Why don’t you try entertaining everybody?
Georgia: Irv, how am I gonna do that?
Irv: History has a lot of dirty stories. Sex sells.

It was only after I visited countries with rich histories and I learnt about their past that I took an interest in the stories that shaped a country’s present. History isn’t necessarily boring. It’s all in the delivery.

Georgia: Incredible isn’t it?
Sue: Tell us about it.
Ken: Yeah what’s the John Dory.
Georgia: We have travelled within a very mysterious triangle. Delhi, Athens, Olympia. And this city, Athens, got its name from the Goddess of Wisdom, Athena. And the Parthenon was built to honour her. It was finished in 432BC… Let me tell you why I love it here. Listen to the wind blowing through the columns. That is the same wind that mankind has listened to for centuries. It’s the sound of nature meeting human imagination. And for me that’s history.
Alan: I tell you what Angie. It’s just plain beautiful that’s what it is.

And I’m glad Georgia realises it by the end of the tour and film. So next time, when you’re standing before the Parthenon….

“Listen to the wind blowing through the columns. That is the same wind that mankind has listened to for centuries. It’s the sound of nature meeting human imagination. And for me that’s history.”

Visit Greece

“Greece was a happening place 2500 years ago. It was birthplace of art and democracy and philosophy and then they discovered the nap.” – Georgia

Greece plays a big role in the film. The sights are what makes me love this film. We journey through Athens, Delphi and Olympia with Georgia and her tour group, and are treated to a 95 minute long advertisement promoting the beautiful sights and experiences one might enjoy in Greece. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

I’m sure the film generalizes all of Greece and the Greeks, because the people I encountered on my Greek adventure was all very nice and friendly. But every country has its pros and cons. Personally, I think Greece is a must see and you should definitely put it on your bucket list.

(1) Donald Petrie has also directed films like Mystic Pizza (1988), Richie Rich (1994), Miss Congeniality (2000), How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003), and Just My Luck (2006).

(2) Nia Vardalos has also acted in films like My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002), and I Hate Valentine’s Day (2009).

(3) Caroline Goodall has also acted in films like Hook (1991), Schindler’s List (1993), The Princess Diaries (2001), Chasing Liberty (2004), The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004), Dorian Gray (2009), The Cold Light of Day (2012), The Third Person (2013), The Best of Me (2014), and The Dressmaker (2015).

(4) Richard Dreyfuss has also acted in films like American Graffiti (1973), Jaws (1975), The American President (1995), Krippendorf’s Tribe (1998), Poseidon (2006), W. (2008), Paranoia (2013), and Very Good Girls (2014).

(5) Rita Wilson has also acted in films like Sleepless in Seattle (1993), Now And Then (1995), That Thing You Do! (1996), Jingle All The Way (1996), Psycho (1998), Runaway Bride (1999), The Story Of Us (1999), Raise Your Voice (2004), Old Dogs (2009), It’s Complicated (2009), The Art Of Getting By (2011), and Larry Crowne (2011).

Final Thoughts:

My Lift In Ruins won’t become a classic, but I think it has its charm. It tries too hard to send a message and can be a little blunt and over the top. However, I think that as long as it is able to get its message across, it’s not a totally failure. While I ain’t no fan of Nia Vardalos, I didn’t detest her performance either. The star of the film for me definitely is Richard Dreyfuss’ Irv. Richard Dreyfuss gave a convincing and stellar performance as Irv. And Irv’s wisdom doesn’t just turn Georgia’s life around, it helps remind us to live well as well. Oh! And don’t forget to take it easy and just let it happen. After all, “how do you plan life?” (3 of 5)

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5 responses to “My Life In Ruins (2009)

  1. Pingback: That Thing You Do! (1996) | Adventures of The SIA Brat·

  2. Pingback: Miss Congeniality (2000) | Adventures of The SIA Brat·

  3. Pingback: Now And Then (1995) | Adventures of The SIA Brat·

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