Therapists Review Movie Couples, from 'Twilight' to 'La La Land' | Vanity Fair

I’m not gonna tell you to get a divorce but I’m sure as hell might be thinking it I’m Maura I’m a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist I’m also a certified Gottman therapist and co-host of marriage therapy radio yeah I’m Zak I’m most of the co-hosts of marriage therapy radio with Laura I have a couples therapist and private practice in Seattle also a certified Gottman therapist today we’re gonna be analysing romantic relationships in some popular films right this is lala land Mia’s an aspiring actress and Sebastian is an aspiring jazz musician Sebastian has gained a steady job by joining a touring band Mia turns down his offer to come on the road with him because she needs to rehearse her upcoming one-woman play but can’t you do us anywhere anywhere you are I mean I guess well all my stuff is here and it’s in two weeks so I don’t really think okay but I wish I could okay that’s a crap whenever people say I you know I just wish I could make it happen don’t say I wish I could if it’s an empty wish do you like the music you’re playing I don’t I don’t know what what it matters well it matters because if you’re gonna give up your dream I think it matters that you like what you’re playing on the road for years Laura how many times have you heard couples come in and say we don’t even know we were arguing about I have no idea yeah every couple that’s the couple I think that’s what’s gonna happen here you’re gonna be on tour with him for years so I just what are you doing right now as a therapist when you’re watching couples do exactly what this couples doing do you ever feel like you’re kind of getting swept up in a tornado and you really can’t track and you’re just like wait what I’m here if this was happening right in front of me I would let it play and eventually I would say do you guys have any idea what you’re talking about right now yeah and they would stop and it’ll jar them the other one I would say is do you have any idea what the purpose of this conversation is like they never know why because I don’t even know what the end of this conversation is gonna be apart from disaster because they don’t have a shared goal they don’t have a shared understanding of what they’re trying to accomplish together and that becomes apparent because he plays this card which is well I did what you wanted so why aren’t you gonna do what I want it they’re no longer talking with each other they’re only talking at each other people will want to go to it where should they have stopped because there is an important stopping point that couples need to recognize where they’re no longer having an intelligible conversation well your question about when should they have stopped it’s kind of like asking when should we parachute out of this plane that’s about to crash anytime before it hits the ground I mean I finally in something that people enjoy it’s when do you why do you care so much about being an actress about yep shots fired yeah if he says I’m sorry hold on let me go let me go compose myself real quick I didn’t I shouldn’t I said that mm-hmm what you’re saying is this is this would be the opportunity for repair yeah instead he’s like me when I was on my ass cuz it made you feel better about yourself no I know that guy very well yeah I think it’s interesting and actually quite brilliant that they wrote in this fire alarm because I think we need this idea of this fire alarm or this like third thing to pull us out of whatever’s going on and I just think that if you think of a what is she doing there’s this wait no what don’t stop come so she leaves you wanted her to stick with it you wanted her to help him I’d like I said this I mean this will think it literally ends in a disaster but know that fire alarm was brilliant after the moment that they’ve already hurt one another then you get this fire alarm and I just wish that that fire alarm had gone off like two minutes earlier the methodology that we come out of which is the Gottman method has this idea that there are four sort of relationship destroying behaviors and they were all over that conversation like his defensive ‘no sysm when he goes you’re just an actress there’s contempt right which is yeah problematic some of us have to choose what’s called stonewalling which is what she did right she just went totally inside and then left to left the room and none of that makes room for a relationship if you recognize that the four things are part of the relationship then it’s probably in your best interest to rein them in and figure out how you

can do something different other than what what’s going on you know the first time we met I really didn’t like it that much I didn’t like you so this movie is When Harry Met Sally harry and Sally you know they have different ideas about relationships Harry thinks that men and women can’t be friends because the sex parts gets in the way but sally disagrees and they enjoy a friendship for a while and then they become really close and then they sleep together and this clip in particular is one of my favorite clips of all time so here we go put your name in your books right now before they get mixed up and you don’t know whose is whose because someday believe it or not you’ll go 15 rounds over who’s gonna get this coffee table this stupid wagon wheel Roy Rogers garage sale coffee table I thought you liked it okay and this is one of the greatest lines in all of cinema I want you to know that I never want that wagon wheel coffee she’s looking up at him she looks at him lovingly she has this one-liner and oftentimes just those one-liners of humor is enough to diffuse a lot of tension in the room so I love that moment about anything don’t be ridiculous what you never get upset about Joe I never see that back up on you how is that possible don’t you experience any feelings of loss isn’t it true that like wouldn’t one person in the relationship is internally just having a meltdown don’t you love company and your meltdown and he like draws her in and now all of a sudden they’re in a conflict like first he starts off by exploding on his friends she doesn’t budge she stays cool calm and collected and she extends the grease he just bumped into Helen then he sucks her in and it’s like no I mean I’m in this place and I want you to join me it’s hard it’s hard to stay away from someone when they want to bring you into that into that tornado of frustration and anger it is and what’s really cool about this scene is what happens next because I think this is the heart of what we’re trying to invite couples to think through are you finished now yes can I say something yes I’m sorry that’s the parachute right like that’s the ability to say right this is the fire alarm this movie is about their friendship and it’s actually what brings them at the end to a successful relationship they weathered through lots of relationship bumps and curves and turns and were able to repair with some consistency and she lets him which i think is really great it’s the friendship that pulls them out of the conflict and allows them to repair quickly before doing damage before getting to that place where they end up stonewalling and creating this chasm between them some of the best advice I ever got was marry your best friend and so when I was in the single world I just kept thinking I might not feel the fireworks but I love this person for who they are because they’re my best friend and and I think that’s a really great place to start I just want you to know I will never want that wagon for copy double or nothing okay so this is love and basketball Monica and Quincy were childhood sweethearts both set on becoming pro basketball players and they both go off to USC wear Quincy finds success while Monica struggles for playtime Quincy struggles to deal with the media attention and butts heads with his dad about finishing school before going pro when she feels Monica was not there for him through this and the couple splits up go talk to your new girlfriend look I took the hold of Burger King cheap date she had time for me so you messed around to prove a point what’d I just say no you got your head so far up your ass took a cheat day for you to notice me what human did I forget to kiss your ass like everybody else you forgot to beat it all I think we all want is love and attention and we want our partner to see us and what I get from that one line is that he feels like he’s been like or unseen if we’re gonna be together I have to be able to trust you he’s backing up to drop this bomb and I get the sense like he doesn’t feel like that sense of security and safety like he’s literally giving space because he’s about to drop the bomb that we’re breaking up I’m not asking for us to be together what I mean whatever I did we can fix this I don’t think so you don’t thinks this idea that if this couple showed up in my office to have this conversation again I would let it play and at the end I would probably say you know what guys you’re probably right it sounds like you don’t have the total trust and commitment that it would be required for you to really make a run at a successful long-term relationship this is similar to the lilac clip in this in this way they are both more committed to

their own dream than their mutual dream I think where it differs is that in the lala land clip they are going at each other in this way there’s also like actual listening to one another and responding to what the other was saying she says we can fix this and he actually has a thoughtful response which is I don’t think so it’s not a flooded or escalated response and that’s where I think that those two clips are really different I agree you know the la-la-land is just two people in a monologue they’re talking for the sake of talking there’s nothing they’re not responding to one another it’s not a dialogue this one’s definitely a dialogue still like us to be friends I’ll see you around in both cases the scene ends with somebody walking away I would say sometimes you do need a break sometimes you need a break from the moment or even from the relationship but there’s no reason to be impolite about it I mean if Laura and I were just having dinner at my house and she decided that she was done with dinner would be very impolite for her just to grab her purse and leave and not say goodbye or think you’re whatever and that’s what happens in the lala land clip but in this case at least he’s polite about it starting from Laura’s Laura acknowledged like when he backs up they both know what it took to get to where they’re at and what each other’s dreams are like he’s aware that she’s fighting for a dream and she he can probably understand to some degree why she can’t be there for him and at the same time it doesn’t make it any easier it might be too late for my soul but I will protect yours okay so this is the Twilight Saga it’s the Eclipse version this is a classic love triangle between Bella she’s a teenage human and Edward a vampire and then there’s Jacob a werewolf and Jacob confesses that he’s in love with Bella and forcefully kisses her Edward later threatens Jacob and tells him to only kiss her if she asked for it I really believe him too they both look like they’re in so much pain to be talking about love right now but okay go for it guys flush and assault I think he’s been watching too many Disney movies he’s like if I just yes sir and I think that’s what he’s going for right like he’s ultimately trying to convince her that if I just kiss you he’s been watching 1938 Cinderella that’s what he’s been watching Oh fYI it’s not okay to put hands on your partner male or female I just think that it’s important for us to mention that that these young girls that are watching this and young males like might think it’s okay to just punch someone to me this entire clip and this entire series is about boundaries where they are and where they should be and she’s trying as best she can to establish a boundary for him and he just clearly oversteps she’s expressing she says I don’t feel that way for you and he argues he argues with her I don’t believe you I don’t believe that that’s really how you’re feeling you don’t get to argue with somebody else’s feelings like those are their feelings and I often find that that’s where couples get really stuck is feeling like you have a place to argue your partner out of their feelings and you just don’t that’s how they feel when that shows up in my office people will say something I feel blah blah blah and somebody will say that’s not true and I and I often go well it’s true that they feel that people get into trouble there when they say I feel like we’re especially when they say I feel like you because that’s generally is no longer a feeling it’s more of a judgement both parts of this clip are about boundaries because if you can’t honor your partner’s boundaries you’re not very trustworthy partner and then I think by this point Edward and Bella are sort of the chosen pair all Edwards doing is trying to establish a very clear and appropriate boundary the boundary of consent which fellow was able to do for herself she’s not wait bar to say the words of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world she walks into mine what sick of look at Casablanca basically Rick is an American expat he’s running a nightclub and a gambling den in Casablanca during World War two he meets and falls in love with Ilsa two years earlier in Paris and she didn’t tell Rick that she was married to a Czech resistance leader who she believed was dead and when she learned that he was alive they also left Rick with no explanation then Rick comes to possess letters that allow carriers to move freely around occupied Europe and Ilsa and her husband need these letters that a gun in her hand yeah that oughta motivate him she needs the letters tried everything no I want those letters get them for me I don’t have to I got him right here she’s making what’s called a bid she’s saying hey I need something from you when somebody makes a bid in your relationship you have options you can turn toward them or you can turn away from them incidentally can also

turn against them but in this case she says I need something and he literally turns his body boom turn away so the premise in couples therapy anyway is that if you’re gonna have a healthy relationship you need to learn how to turn towards one another because turning toward creates more turning toward turning away creates more turning away watch this go he turns away she turns away now we know that she’s going to grab a gun which is now the escalation now she’s turning against in the context of this clip he turns toward right he actually moves toward her he diffuses the turning against with some courage and some patience which is what Ryan Gosling did not do in la-la land he puts the gun in his stomach but what he’s done is he turns toward and regardless of whether she’s married to somebody else she now also turns toward yeah I mean watch how quickly it de-escalates the moment he turns toward her her gun goes down it’s literally just de-escalate the whole situation that’s the mechanics of this scene that I think is really clever and pretty consistent with the way we try and get couples to treat one another do we ever really pull guns out like that in conflict no but we absolutely have weapons that well Ryan Gosling right he said you’re the actress that might as well have been uh-huh that’s a weapon right so you like we use words as as weapons toward our partner we escalate things we basically say hey you’re not listening to me this is really important and maybe that’ll wake you up maybe you’ll recognize how important this situation is to me but physical violence verbal weapons they’re all the same I see balancing two men at the same time Amy’s married with two kids and she’s feeling overworked and undervalued hello her husband Mike is ungrateful and resentful of her and they decide to attend family counseling with Wanda Sykes Mike Amy I want you to look at each other and say three things that you like about each other I like your spaghetti and you make pretty good calzone was that three that was like one and then warning I love that I love that she says one in one a cuz I do not let people off the hook in my intercessions and I would have been like okay so where’s you know like two and three part of what’s challenging about being a therapist watching therapists on television is that they’re not designed to actually be of help to the couple they’re designed to create comic relief you’re exactly right like she moves on way too quickly if she’s gonna be up up to this couple and I think what she does next kind of makes me groan because this I don’t think works at all let’s try some role-playing all right Amy I want you to pretend to be Mike and Mike I want you to pretend to be Amy okay hi I’m Amy all I did today was like rub lotion on my face and talk to talk to talk to talk okay in theory she’s chasing empathy right like in theory she’s trying to get them to have some empathy for the other you have to get buy-in from these guys that they are actually interested in it see this is the problem here’s the bottom line she’s a perfectionist so what’s the point of even trying how does that approach she has a given a blowy since my birthday five years ago this cracks me up because inevitably you have clients that are going to turn it like they’re done talking to each other and then they turn to you like the rest like okay what are you gonna do about this or like now that I’ve got your ear let me tell you about all the ways my partner is failing remember when I said that all marriages are savable whether they ain’t gonna happen for you guys so what do you think we should do well as a therapist I’m not allowed to tell you what to do but uh as a human being with two eyes at my head yeah I think you should get divorced as soon as possible this is catastrophic I’m not gonna tell you to get a divorce but I’m sure as hell might be thinking it we’re absolutely thinking sometimes like this is a shipwreck this is going down down down down down down and I want to tell them so bad to abandon ship but you just don’t I think she really does what this couple down because she gives up on them before she should so do you think that Wanda Sykes is a good therapist no I think she’s a great comedian I think she’d be a good individual life coach cuz that’s where I think you can speak a little more fluidly and openly like she says but in couples therapy that was not good the couples therapy at all I hope so this may be as Hope Springs the couple is K and Arnold and they’re both devoted to their marriage but they’re in need of some help to reignite the spark kay tells arnold she wants them to undergo a week of intense marriage counseling in a maine coastal resort town arnold however denies that their marriage is in need of help and here they are in the therapists

office regardless right Arnold let’s talk about you what do you enjoy sexually sex I am going to ask you to get more specific was oral sex an option is that something that you would do regularly no I was not very I’m I was not comfortable with that giving or receiving huh I love that he specifies the other thing that I would note about Steve Carell who in talking about sex he’s not sensationalizing it he’s just saying hey what’s the deal what do you like Arnold is trying to rile him up right he’s like missionary position and he’s like Oh what about this used medications like viagra know as we age sometimes it becomes it works what would you say was working in your sex life when you were sexual together great question what was working so so often couples come in and they are so focused on what’s not going well I instead like to flip it and say what was going well what did you enjoy what did you like and it just kind of shifts the entire dynamics so far Steve Karl’s crushing it were there things that you wanted to do but didn’t coming up with anything there are no wrong answers here do you ever say that in your practice I’ve seen that several times in these clips where therapists are saying there’s no wrong answers do you ever say that Zak not really no I mean I even either not that there are wrong answers it’s just that’s a cliche I don’t use it yeah did you have fantasies that you didn’t feel comfortable telling her about the chorus well I I guess I used to think about okay giving me a oral network remember the desk time here’s what I think is happening and I do this quite a bit he’s talking to Arnold but he’s really talking to Meryl Streep and if you watch her she is aware that she’s getting information that she never had before in a way that she’s never gotten it before it’s like you’re you’re modeling and teaching the other person in the room Meryl Streep how to get more information more access and how to normalize that conversation how to make it comfortable for your partner Steve Grylls bias toward curiosity is really helpful I think he plays kind of a Columbo almost like he plays a detective which is why I think there’s going to be some aha moment that neither one of them see coming that but they be he’s probably had a beat on for a while and one of Sykes is more of like you said more like a life coach who is trying to motivate very specific change in a hurry which is why there’s exercises let’s try this let’s try that the couple she’s working with just wasn’t amenable to that in both cases the couple used that room to have conversations that they weren’t having on their own so in that way the movies got that right and that’s designed to drive plot forward the real question is what what does the therapist do to facilitate health and healing or just to bring reality to bear I’ll say a word that’s fun thanks Lauren I think’s Vanity Fair thanks all of you out there in the intertubes who are watching us to talk about movies it’s always fascinating to me to learn more about relationships and therapy and I’m glad to do it with with all of you thanks Zack thank you for all of our viewers and thank you to Vanity Fair for having having us on and being able to take a look at some interesting representations of therapists in film