Thursday, 12 December 2019

Heroine Fix: Samantha/Charlie from The Long Kiss Goodnight

Each month I focus on a well-written heroine who inspire and influences my own writing.  What can I say?  I'm addicted to awesome heroines!  You can check out all of my Heroine Fixes to learn about some amazing characters.  Warning: this post will contain spoilers.

It's the holiday season, which means it's time for classic feel-good movies that celebrate family, personal growth, and high yield explosions.  

Okay, that last one may just be me, but I love holiday action movies, and one of my favourites is The Long Kiss Goodnight with Geena Davis and Samuel L. Jackson.  Geena Davis plays Samantha, a woman who woke up with no memories of her past life.  For eight years, she's been living a quiet life in a small town, raising her daughter, and hiring private investigators to try and find out who she once was.  She appears on television and is spotted by a man in prison, who recognizes her and breaks out to try and kill her.

Samantha discovers that she is a major badass and begins getting flashbacks of her life as a contract killer names Charlie.  She and the private investigator (Jackson) keep going deeper and deeper, uncovering an active plot to explode a government facility in order to fund a black-ops government agency.

The duality of the character fascinates me.  With these kinds of stories, it's rare to find that both personalities are well developed.  In this case, both Charlie (the assassin) and Samantha (the mother) are fully fledged.  Samantha is kind and patient, with a quirky sense of humour, making jokes about forgetting her way to the kitchen and trading teasing quips with her fiancee about her lack of cooking skills.  Charlie is quick-witted and observant, a woman who never admits defeat and never gives up.  Even when strapped to a water wheel, she continues to fight.

One scene in particular stuck with me.  Davis has regained all of her memories, becoming Charlie.  She cuts off her hair and dyes it blonde, regaining her appearance before the accident that took her memories.  She starts to seduce Jackson, who stops her, telling her that he believes she wants to sleep with him to destroy the other part of herself.  He tells her that he had a lot of respect for Samantha and doesn't think she deserves to be tossed aside like trash.

The performance is impressive.  We can see Charlie struggling because Samantha is a part of her.  The two don't have to be in competition.  Being a loving mother doesn't mean weakness and being a kickass assassin doesn't mean having to be alone.  

I think that's why this movie has been one of my perennial rewatches.  Davis doesn't have to make a choice between Samantha or Charlie.  She gets to have the best aspects of both.  Too often, women are presented with choices that seem to cut off pieces of themselves.  How many movies center around a conflict of choosing the career/promotion or love?  Holiday movies especially seem to use the "what you thought you wanted means less than family/love/tradition" trope.

Charlie is darn good at her job, one of the best.  But there was a part of her that wanted a "normal" life, with a chance at love and family.  When her memory was lost, she had a chance to experience that.  For eight years, she lived as Samantha.  Except Samantha wanted to know where she came from and how to make sense of the memory fragments she did have.  But she didn't want to give up her life and her daughter.  Both Charlie and Samantha get what they wanted and discover that together they are far cooler than they ever imagined they could be.

And that's the kind of holiday story that I enjoy.

Previous Heroine Fix: The Girl Gang of Ocean's 8

Previous Post: Reclaiming My HEA: Being Open To Possibilities

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