Friday, November 6, 2020

Showtime’s ‘Ode to Joy’ provides entertainment and education about a real condition

By Matt Pascarella

What if you fainted every time you felt a strong emotion? What if that emotion was happiness? Such is the case of real-life person, Matt Frerking, who this movie is based on. Frerking has narcolepsy with cataplexy. If he feels strong positive emotions, it can cause his brain to tell his body to go to sleep.

In writer Max Werner’s film, “Ode to Joy,” Martin Freeman plays Charlie, who has a very similar problem – any feelings of joy cause him to fall right to the floor. This fun movie is based on a piece done by WBEZ Chicago’s “This American Life” about Frerking and his condition.

Charlie lives with his brother Cooper (Jake Lacy). Cooper has looked after his brother all their lives. Charlie, who has concocted ways to keep happiness out of his life, like wearing boring clothing to avoid compliments, or putting tacks in his shoes in an effort to feel pain and avoid joy. This changes when he meets Francesca (Morena Baccarin) who enters and wants to bring joy to Charlie’s life.

They meet when Francesca’s boyfriend dumps her in the library where Charlie works. His first impressions of her aren’t great, but after some coaxing from a co-worker, he decides to ask her out, but very carefully. She says yes and while their date goes well, it ends with Charlie in the hospital. He ends things with Francesca and suggests Cooper date her. Charlie later meets Bethany (Melissa Rauch), who is a little less exciting, and she and Charlie begin to date.

When the two couples spend a weekend at a bed and breakfast, it becomes clear that Charlie and Francesca have more in common. This weekend doesn’t go well, as both Charlie and Cooper get dumped.

Francesca lives with her aunt (Jane Curtain) who is battling cancer and understandably, this is hard on Francesca. When Francesca sees some gifts that Charlie bought for her, she realizes there might be a future. It takes some convincing from Cooper for Charlie to make the same conclusion.

Will Charlie and Francesca get together?

I’m sure you have already predicted how this ends. It’s not a hard prediction to make and the end might make you smile. This atypical rom-com is a feel good movie that’s only minimally sappy. On a sappy scale of one to 10, I wouldn’t give it more than three or four, tops. The plot moves along nicely and there are only a couple points where there’s a minor lull in the story. It won’t have you tearing up with laughter, but I thought it was pretty funny. When I learned this was a real thing that actually happened to someone, cataplexy, it made the movie interesting. “Ode to Joy” has a nice message about finding someone who accepts you for you. Two boxes of joyful tacks (or pushpins) up.

Available on Showtime or to rent. <

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