RUNNING AWAY FROM YOURSELF
By standards of the generality of mankind, the life of Larry Burrows is at the head of the queue to be called comfortable and cozy, particularly if not to focus too much on the small faults of the first half of the day of 35th birthday. He is lucky enough to find delight in his own house, though without a well-groomed area of grass. A devoted wife, who knows Lurry probably even better and he himself. A homey atmosphere at home is being complemented by the presence of a former street, yet very cute dog. Larry Burrows has been working for years in a company, a major market player in sports equipment. As opposed to some awkward moments (which Larry makes too much of), the boss always takes delight in communicating with Larry. Even though the wife of the company CEO and a former Larry’s classmate and owner’s daughter all in one, takes a liking to the key character of the story, who is, in fact, just a frontline office worker. Larry has the luxury of having a devoted friend: they both are not the brightest, yet this friendship is a fortune of decades. Larry even has his own car, though he used himself to criticize the constant necessity of repair. The life of Burrows is not probably the one to be called bright or outstanding: it is quite ‘ordinary’. At the same time, is ‘normality’ by itself a wake-up call, and do the majority of people live this ordinary life?
Larry Burrows: 35 years old, and my life is shit.
Mike: Can’t be all that bad.
Larry Burrows: It’s not that it’s bad, you know, it’s just that it’s ordinary.
All while the generality of men and women on Earth would regard Larry Burrows’ life as comfortable for a man of 35 years old with decades of happenings ahead, the character himself feels a comedown from his own life. The protagonist regards his life as ‘ordinary’ and the burning feeling of an untapped potential correlates with one particular event from as far back in time as twenty years ago: the undriven baseball ball back in 1970 when Larry was only fifteen years old. We people naturally overvalued the necessity to measure up the latter years every birthday and on New Year’s eve. Larry is discontented with a feeling that his life could be ‘better’. The far-seeing brilliance of the stories such as ‘Mr. Destiny’ lies in the fact that the absolute majority of people among the audience may see themselves in it. Evidently, every mature human being, even among the most ‘successful’ representatives of our kind, had experienced doubts on the matter, does all in one’s life evolve in a proper way, and should one change something in the past if he or she has had such a chance.
Mike: Some people think things are the way they are for a reason.
Larry’s concern, apart from the tendency to aggravate the natural human habit to estimate ourselves, is his idealization of the social status, prosperity, position held and which can be called the ‘markers of success’. The protagonist is carried away by the sight of Cindy Jo (Rene Russo) and he speculates on the fact that there is no chance to get bored next to such a woman like her. In one’s own way Burrows looks at his chief Niles Pender (the antagonist of the whole story) with envy. That back-stabbing slippery social climber lives like fighting cocks and plays a double game behind the back of the owner and CEO. With great possibility, Larry Burrows used himself to look at professional basketball players with admiring envy by putting himself in their sports shoes. Without saying it aloud, the key character has cultivated a kind of world perception according to which he is deprived of happiness by an unfinished lawn, an empty coffee server, a crooked car, and an irrelevant gift from his school buddy. By regarding his own life as boring and ‘ordinary’, Larry naturally matches this fixed image with a made one of himself being successful.
Clip Metzler: You know what your problem is? Nothing’s ever good enough for you. The way I see it, you’ve got a perfect life. You’ve got a wonderful home, a terrific wife, a good job, and the best friend money can buy. What else could a guy want?
Larry Burrows: A little excitement would be nice.”
The point with Larry Burrows (there would be no ‘Mr. Destiny’ movie without it) is that he synchronically does not pay enough regard to what he has in his life, and he overprices the importance of those virtues he does not take advantage of. He overvalues the influence of a single missed basketball ball back in 1970 on one’s life, thus cultivating a personified excuse. Larry sets a too high value upon the empty coffee pots in the morning in the office, yet it is obvious, that the number one hint not to experience such a thing is to be at work on time. He invests so much emotional effort in arguing with an indecent ‘lawn contractor’, though he had to change the executor a long time ago to finish the greenery. Larry has an assumption that the whole world might forget about his 35th birthday, though, as the phrase goes, there is still time. The point is, that our misfortunes and failures give us lessons and are an integral part of life itself, as well as the highlights. The correlation between highs and lows would depend on adventurousness, finding alternative ways of doing things, patience, and invested effort, rather than an empty coffee pot or missed ball. Larry idealizes too many of the benefits he for some reason does not have at the moment.
Putting the issue in the words of android Arthur from the sci-fi movie ‘Passengers’, Larry feels like he is supposed to be somewhere else. And even if he could snap his fingers and be wherever he wanted to be, he would probably still feel the same way: not in the right place. Larry’s tragedy lies in the fact that he does not see the purpose of his own life, does not regard the goods and people around him well enough. Due to this matter, the unexpected wealth, another woman, luxury cars, and gold playing can not solve the existential core of the issue, which is closely connected to the line of thinking, rather than to the lack of some well-being. Turning once again to the ‘PASSENGERS’, you can’t get so hung up on where you’d rather be that you forget how to make the most of where you are. In reality, Larry would fill disharmony with his being all the way through his mind pattern of running from who he is and what events have made him himself. In other words, if you constantly distance yourself from who you are, there is no ‘best’ place. ‘Grass is always greener on the other side of the fence’ could become a devastating, self-torturing idea.
Two evident examples from the world-famed movies correlate much with the story of Larry Burrows as well. In another illuminative comedy ‘INTESTATE 60’ we can find such a line: «Some people just don’t know what to wish for’’ and in the ‘BIG’ (1988 with Tom Hanks) the main character deprives himself of adulthood between 13 and 30 year old. In actual terms in accordance with Burrows’ experience, not all changes are for good, if you want to come back in time and change something. In “Back to the Future’ Marty decided he can’t lose with printed sports results: the decision, which, in fact, created a frustrating and doomed version of the reality. People naturally tend to think they want to change something in their own past, not realizing the fact that such changes could deprive us of something sacred in the present. Evidently, fantastic movies such as ‘Mr. Destiny’, provides us with a hypothetical possibility, which in actual terms no one has in reality, yet constant regrets lead us to nothing.
“All morning I’d been thinking about what it would have been like if my life had turned out differently.” Larry Burrows
Regrettably, years prior to the events of the story, Larry has taught himself to take all good in his life (devoted wife and friends, house, job, dog, father) for granted. At the same time, he tends to overvalue the things he does not have at the moment. Larry complains that he never finds coffee in the office, yet the later superfluity of cappuccino does not make him happy. The key character regarded one breakfast without flakes as a tragedy, though later he is not the kind of person who can pay full regard to the delicacies of a rich life. The house included so many toilets, that Larry could not find a single one to use it. He finds out that in this new reality he cheats Cindy Jo with another woman in the office and he takes away by dating Ellen and ignoring a new wife: he would later deserve to be fired from his CEO position by Cindy Jo’s father. Burrows ran from who he is to that extent, that in this reality his beloved Ellen hates this new Larry and his best friend Clip finds a way to settle scores with one’s life. In one way or another, every new decision has a ‘butterfly effect’ influence on the whole world around Larry, and things go off. In a kind of tragic climax of this part of the story, Larry runs away from the police and hits his cute dog with a car. ‘Rich people also cry’ is one of the evident messages of the movie. The most effective way to hurt someone is to carry out all his wishes.
Mike: You’ll see. Things have changed, Larry. You have to take the bad with the good. You didn’t think everything was gonna be perfect, did you?
Larry Burrows: Well, I… I…, I suppose not.
Mike: This is your life, Larry. Learn to enjoy what you’ve got.
THE POWER OF MAKING A CHOICE
As I have already underlined above, the tragedy of Larry Burrows lies not only in the line of thinking, the inappreciation of what he has and paying too high a value to some well-being but also in the lack of proactive stand. He regards his work as ‘ordinary’ office pushing papers, yet he hardly fulfills his potential in this large international corporation with definite perspectives. When facing a chance to voice the double game of his chief, Larry backpedals. It is evident that Larry has had all chances to take advantage of his good relations with Jackie Earle Bumpers to become a welcomed guest at some social events and dinner parties, playing golf. With a hand on his heart, he could get a promotion years ago. If truth be told, Burrows leaves us unmoved in regard to his devotion to his work, so from what direction should he expect a new ‘extraordinary’ position. Unusual paths lead to unusual.
Mike: Your destiny has been changed, Larry, by request, I might add. And you must take responsibility for the circumstances of your new life. They are, after all, of your own making.
Leaving the topic of career aside, Larry is unrestricted in building his own life and every day in the way he might think ‘right’. In actual terms, we find Larry Burrows in a place he himself wants to be. If he does not have some well-being, it depends on Larry only and his lack of effort. He takes out Ellen soon after a debate with an unprincipled executor, yet he has just given him another sum of money rather than getting the upper hand and finding another contractor. The protagonist is frustrated with the lack of flakes in the morning, but why does not he have an additional box in the kitchen in regard to the fact that he has been eating it since childhood. Larry could easily buy a cup of coffee on his way to the office or just be there in time not to miss a full coffee service on the table. An old car is a source of constant disappointment, yet Larry has just given at least 1000 dollars for the lawn to a dishonorable man. He used to handle toy models of cars rather than invest effort in buying a new one. It was not the missed ball back in 1970, but Larry’s cumulative pathological inactivities throughout all these years, which has made him himself as we see Burrows at the beginning of ‘Mr. Destiny’ story.
Clip Metzler: Oh… no. I figured I didn’t make out many choices. You know what my policy is? You do nothing, you see what happens. And you know what, things always are turning up fine.”
By itself, the missed ball in that match made no loser of Larry and definitely has not cultivated his ‘ordinarity’. Throughout all these years since 1970, it has been his own choice (as the story would show, the right one) to cast one’s life with Ellen and Clip. Mike (Michael Caine) says that ‘every incident in a person’s life affects everything else’ and thus every action in the absence of it does the same. The brilliance of the story is that it is not Mike, but Larry is Mr. Destiny, and, going far this way, every viewer of this movie is a creator and a decision-maker of one’s life. Each of us can suggest our own version of life and destiny and find ourselves in the place, where we have the guts and effort to get. During the later scenes, Larry finally works up the courage to voice his suspicions in regard to Niles Pender and his double game. It is this adventurousness that would lead Larry to a new position and a real car, a social position, and well-being. We can only guess how easy it would now be for Larry to deal with the lawn executor.
Larry Burrows: How can my life change so much just because I hit one stinking baseball?
Mike: Well, you see Larry, one’s destiny is a very complicated thing. Every incident in a person’s life affects everything else that follows it.
Mike: Congratulations, Larry. It’s a brave man who takes control of his own destiny.
MAKING MUCH OF WHAT YOU HAVE
It pays me to make another, third-in-a-row reference to the ‘wisdoms’ of Arthur from the ‘Passengers’: you can’t get so hung up on where you’d rather be that you forget how to make the most of where you are. Speaking in concrete terms of Larry Burrows’ story, in his life he has needed if not for the happiness itself, but for a chance to build this well-being. An adorable dog from the street, a devoted loving wife, faithful loyal friends, friendly terms with both CEO and company owner, Larry’s own house: all these have proved to be more important than any established markers of success. The point is that being granted wealth, opportunities, luxurious cars, and a mansion, social status at the parties, first things first for Larry was to share these goods with his closest ones. Once found out that they are not with him anymore, the value of such new acquisitions happened to be elusive. You lose the worth of any gains if you do not have close people to share all these with them. With people, who love you not for your successes.
Ellen Burrows: Larry, if we had such a great life together, why’d you want it changed?
Larry Burrows: I guess… I just didn’t know what I had.”
Larry Burrows put very low esteem to the start of this 35th birthday. He lacked corn flakes, the attentiveness of his spouse toward the event, a good car, American coffee in the office, and indeed gift from his friend apart from a school-time artificial puke. However, it is received wisdom that EVERY CLOUD HAS A SILVER SHINING. Toward the end of this day (the climax of the story), Larry would happen to find out that life is far from bad. It is fair to say that all waa for good. The closest ones never ‘forgot’ about Larry’s birthday, Clip finally made his real present, Larry’s chief and his lovely wife paid their visit to the party as well with a new position and opportunities for Burrows. Once Larry sincerely devoted himself to the models of the cars and was extremely happy with Clip’s present, he got the real new car as a matter of appreciation at work. No French delicacies or cappuccino could grant the protagonist with such amount of inner balance and warmth such as a can of beer at home, or gold with investors waa a never a competitor to a mini-golf and pizza with Ellen.
Larry Burrows: Have you ever had any regrets, Clip? You know, about how your life is turned out, about the choices you made.
Another Hollywood movie, a classic, that has all means to be mentioned here as well is ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. The key character of the story faced the world without his own existence or the known participation in the lives of the others around him. Good to know that their own lives were not so bright without the protagonist, as well as with two versions of Larry Burrows: the ‘successful’ one and the ‘ordinary’ one. Ellen happens to be not very happy in her alternative marriage with another man. Clip appears to be frustrated with all this life without Larry at his side and he even wants to commit suicide. With Larry’s blase attitude, the company would soon be taken by a dishonorable man and Larry’s father divorced his mother to spend time with young girls at his son’s expense. Larry is finally conscious of the fact that he lives not only for himself but for those whom he loves and he has all means to make their lives better, even staying ‘ordinary’. For so many years he was hung up with the things he did not have at the moment (money, social status, job position, coffee, flakes, luxury car), that he has not put enough high esteem to all that beautiful he had in his life.
Once got, one would say, a perfect woman Cindy Jo, Larry, in fact, comes to recognition, that it is Ellen his destiny and he feels happy only next to her. The missed ball twenty years ago was indeed the finest gift in Larry’s life, which helped him to stay with the most precious people. Toward the end of the story, in the same manner as Phil from’ Groundhog day’, Larry starts to live for the good of the other to a greater extent than to concentrate on fulfilling his own ambitions and satisfying needs. Larry has his own house, though on credit and yet without a lawn. For Larry, a chance to see his dog alive is of more value than any well-being for himself. ‘Mr. Destiny’ gives us a lesson, that whatever circumstances and failures we face, you should be faithful to yourself and the people around you and share this incredible world with the ones, who are indeed important to you. That we should put high esteem to what we have every day. Larry finally seems to make the most of where he is.
Larry Burrows: Thanks. Thanks for everything. The good and the bad. Boy, you sure do know how to make a point. Oh, and listen, Mike — whatever you’ve got planned for the rest of my life? It’s perfect.
Mike: Happy birthday, Larry.”