Sitting here on my sofa on a Wednesday, having only consumed a half a glass of rosé, and still a week away from my period, how am I to account for the tears still streaming down my face 15 minutes and a journal entry after finishing Into The Woods? When you think Meryl Streep musical, you don’t think tear jerker. But there were a couple of things that did it.
First of all, this fucking song. Geez louise could it be any prettier? The idea that even when things get scary, you’re not alone, embodied perfectly in this hug of a melody… lets just say things got watery from Anna Kendrick’s opening note.
I was already feeling emotional because I was primed by Emily Blunt’s gorgeous performance of Moments followed by, well… won’t spoiler this for you. But the idea of the song resonates with this 20-something: weighing responsibility and the building blocks that ultimately make life meaningful, with the adventure and the questionable decisions that make your skin tingle. It’s a balance I consider every day when I go into work, and wonder whether I’m wasting the sunshine.
And now things are about to get really sentimental. Into The Woods wrapped the big idea of striking out on your own, into the unknown, and all the fear that comes with it, in a package of fairytale and harmony. I was moved by Into The Woods because of the content, but also because of the product itself: a movie-musical that simultaneously tweaked and honored FAIRYTALES in order to explore difficult and universal themes—of course, all sewn together by the Sondheim score that can communicate fear, adventure, playfulness, and love in just a few bars. That’s amazing! When a film or song or piece of art is beautiful and just impressive, that fact itself gets to me. Hence, tears.
I joke that I love musicals, that it’s nerdy and embarrassing. But really I feel no shame. There’s something about telling a story through song that resembles the drama of life on the scale on which we (I?) feel it, or at least hope to. I love musicals because the music gives performance another dimension; sappiness and kitsch be damned, its full-bodied quality makes it worthy of considering big questions, and working through the feelings that consume us like loss or anticipation. And though they all take place on a set, musicals give the viewer a vision of life that’s full of love and dancing and joy. Plus, ya know, usually the songs are just so pretty.
Though I may be a year late to the party, Disney’s live action Into The Woods did Steven Sondheim and the genre justice. Going to go watch all the songs again now and maybe fantasize a vacation or do some life plotting. Who knows.
PS here is my favorite musical song of all time. It always makes my stomach swoop: