I saw Barefoot in the Park the other night.
It was okay.
But something interesting happened in the Third Act that might be worth sharing.
We reach the point of the story where the characters have fully arc’d. Jane Fonda had felt that Robert Redford was “a stuffed shirt” who never allows himself to get drunk and go crazy, and Redford thinks Fonda’s nonsensical for walking barefoot in Central Park when it’s 17 degrees.
They were separated and headed for divorce. And thus, we find ourselves full circle in Act Three with Redford drunk and barefoot in Central Park, and Jane, the free spirit, is behaving like any level-headed “stuffed shirt” by trying to keep Redford from going insane.
Now, had this been a contemporary film, the movie would have ended in Central Park with the celebration of their character arcs.
But Barefoot continued.
We found ourselves back in the apartment. Fonda and Redford discovered that they didn’t like the changes they were seeing in each other and they just want that same person they fell in love with when they got married. And in the end, they went right back to being the way they were. Clever. (Then again, this may have been common in Rom Coms back then.)
But I don’t believe that I’ve ever read about this type of character arc before. So I think I’ll call it “The Reverse Arc.” It’s where a character changes and then changes right back.
And it serves a purpose, I think.
It’s as if Neil Simon is saying, “If you’re going to put everything in your marriage on the line in order to change the other person, be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.”
– Mystery Man
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