Top 100 American Movie Quotes of the 21st Century: #73

The actor:Joel Edgerton
The character:Richard Loving
The film:Loving
The quote:“Tell them I love my wife.”

“For sale: Baby shoes, never worn” has been memed out of existence. For one thing, the six-word memoir is, even for someone who loves putting unnecessary rules down for what I write, a step too far in the direction of pointlessness. For another, there’s stuff like this out there which has totally replaced the original story about baby shoes.

Jokes aside, “Tell them I love my wife” would not be such a bad six-word memoir.

I say this every time I write about Loving, but to ignore it is like ignoring the acting in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? or ignoring the costume design in Anna Karenina. Loving is a movie about simple people trying to live normal lives. It is a movie in which the most powerful moments and ideas are expressed with equivalent simplicity, the simplicity in form of the bricks that Richard works with or the functional curves of a hot rod. It’s not Richard who wants to challenge the law against interracial marriage but Mildred. She is the one who sees the opportunity, the one who seeks out legal representation, the one who is willing to reopen the humiliation of getting arrested just because she’s married to someone she loves, the one who understands the value of getting a photographer from Time to shoot them at home. She pushes. If it were up to him, they’d continue living in anonymity, or at least the closest thing to anonymity that they could pull off. Neither one of them wants to be present at the Supreme Court for the arguments, for the ruling. They’re told it’s a great honor, but that’s not the kind of people they are.

There’s this really ugly habit in political movies where they’re treated like sports but without the pleasure of a scoreboard or athletic feats. Not everything has to be sports; something can be a contest without it being the Super Bowl. Loving is not about sports, not about the rock ’em sock ’em aspect of gameplay that’s much too sordid for people this dignified. If this were a sporty political movie, then Richard would say something inspiring, would have given the “nobody believes in us speech,” or “they had us in the first half, not gonna lie.” Instead, the movie asks him to speak before the triumph occurs, before he can possibly guess at the outcome of the case. When he speaks, it’s not a statement that he intends will excite anyone but him. Richard’s impression of marriage is a gorgeous one, a belief that marriage is about one person and another person and then, maybe someday (as it is for them), their children. Marriage is not political for Richard, not even when his name is being said in front of the Supreme Court. “Tell them I love my wife” is brief and lingering, a line that is much more political than Richard Loving could have meant it to be, but more romantic as well.

One thought on “Top 100 American Movie Quotes of the 21st Century: #73

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s