No day but today to talk about Roger Davis

Like his best friend and roommate, Roger Davis goes through quite the character change as well. His character is introduced as cold and distant, struggling to cope with the death of his girlfriend, April, who killed herself after she found out she was HIV positive. Roger is a struggling musician whose only desire is to write one good, meaningful song before he too dies from HIV, cueing the dramatic “One Song Glory,” and the infamous “I Want” song for a musical.

Over the course of the film, Roger has to learn how to shed this layer of protection he’s built around himself and realize he only has a short amount of time left, so he can’t waste it living in fear. Because of this, I find his development powerful because it’s difficult for him and he has to practically crawl his way out of this destructive mindset he’s forced himself into.

This progression is generally shown through his solos throughout the film because he has a strong voice that captures his true personality when his actions can’t always do so. “One Song Glory” is prior to his character development, granted it’s one of the first songs in the film, where we see him in his current state. He acknowledges he doesn’t have much time left, so all he wants is to write one song before he goes “to redeem this empty life.” Time has flied for him, and time will soon die, as the song concludes. He also reflects on his late girlfriend April and his golden times when he was in a band before he started using drugs.

As we approach “Light My Candle,” the viewers see Mimi as the character who is going to spark both Roger’s internal and external conflict. From their first interaction, Mimi is romantically interested in Roger and actively attempts to pursue him. However, Roger does not want a romantic relationship because he doesn’t want to commit and be hurt again.

Not only does he want to avoid a relationship with her because of how his last one ended, he’s HIV positive, and up until this point, he didn’t know Mimi was too. With this in mind, he’s trying to protect Mimi because he doesn’t want to infect her or have her become attached to him because he’s going to die soon. Yet another reason is that Mimi uses heroin, and Roger had just gone through “half a year of withdrawal,” so hanging out with a drug user wouldn’t be good for him because it could potentially get him back on that path again.

“Another Day” is my favorite song in the timeline of Roger’s character development for a variety of reasons. Mimi is trying to persuade Roger to give her a chance because she thinks you shouldn’t not do something because you’re afraid or you might regret it later because you should live in the moment and that there’s “no day but today,” a theme in the film. Despite her brave grand gesture to get his attention, Roger retaliates angrily and yells about how she shouldn’t be storming into his apartment and insisting they have a relationship. He tells her “another time, another place” and to “come back another day” because “the fire’s dead and it’s never ever gonna start,” meaning the fire representing his desire to have a relationship with someone is dead and she shouldn’t be bothering because nothing’s going to happen. He doesn’t want her to die on him too, but what he doesn’t realize is like him, Mimi is HIV positive.

The problem is Mimi and Roger are in love, but Roger is afraid to love Mimi because of his last girlfriend, April. Roger is afraid to love her, but Mimi reminds to “Give in to love or live in fear.” By the end of the song, Mimi, along with Collins, Mark, and Angel, all try to encourage Roger to start living again, but he keeps lashing out at them because he doesn’t know how to process his emotions and ends up hurting Mimi’s feelings in the process.

There is a defined shift by the time we reach “I Should Tell You.” Roger had agreed to spend time with Mimi, but when the time came, he was gravitating towards other people and ignoring her, frustrating Mimi. She then confronts him and her beeper goes off, reminding her of her “AZT break” and Roger learns she has HIV like him. The purpose of “I Should Tell You” is where Roger and Mimi finally confess how they feel about the other, after holding it in all this time, while also expressing concerns about the baggage both of them carry and how it could affect them starting a relationship. Mimi tells Roger she blew her own candle out in “Light My Candle” just so she could go back to Roger and see him to ask him to light it again. Roger then tells her he forgot how to smile until her candle “burned his skin.” The line in the song where I think things really start to change is “Trusting desire, starting to learn, walking through fire without a burn” because it has that theme of fire back from “Another Day” while also showing that they’re both beginning to trust themselves to be in a relationship.

Lastly, the song that solidifies the relationship between Roger and Mimi, completing his character development, is “Your Eyes.” It took a trip to Santa Fe for Roger to realize he does love Mimi and he needs to stop sabotaging himself because his time is limited and now that he has his one song, all he needs is Mimi, because Mimi was his song. Isn’t that romantic? By the end of this song, it took Mimi almost dying for him to give into love and accept a relationship with her because there’s no day but today and you have to forget regret, or life is yours to miss.  Roger was able to move past his emotional issues following the death of his ex-girlfriend and also fulfill his dream of writing one last good song before he dies.

It’s the end…and Mark’s alone

The character I think has the most character development, one who is often overlooked, is pseudo-narrator Mark Cohen. While he is essentially the protagonist because he’s documenting everything that takes place, I feel like many people lose sight of that because throughout the film, he is a spectator to what’s happening around him. Not much happens to him since he’s always caught up trying to mend the problems of his friends, but we more-so see how his lack of action affects him.

Mark has a strong voice, which will make him such a great filmmaker, but he tends to get overshadowed by the problems of his friends. The story begins with him still trying to motivate his roommate, Roger, to go out and be a productive member of society. Despite his attempts, Roger is reluctant as he’s still mourning the loss of his girlfriend, who killed herself when she was diagnosed with HIV.

The biggest example of this is found in his solo, Halloween, where he laments his loneliness and how all of his friends will soon be dead, leaving him alone. However, in the movie version of this production, they chose to omit the two songs that gave Mark the most character development and fully explain his character.

Roger doesn’t like hearing what Mark has to say, thus retaliating by insulting him, informing him that he has no right to judge him or his decisions. He goes on to say, “Mark’s in love with his work; Mark hides in his work.”

He calls him out on hiding behind his camera and how he vicariously lives through his friends to avoid facing the loneliness he experiences. Roger goes on to say he lives a lie when he argues, “You’re always preaching not to be numb, but that’s how you thrive” and how he detaches from feeling alive. Mark counters by pointing out that he uses detaching from life as a coping mechanism when he says, “perhaps it’s because I’m the one of us to survive.” In his mind, it’s easier than becoming attached, since half of his friends are going to be dead from AIDs soon.

The theme presented in this scene and within this song is how Mark’s loneliness is masked by hiding behind his camera. As the narrator of the movie, Mark is filming his friends as they go about their daily lives and Mark himself is rarely seen on his film. His ex-girlfriend, Maureen, has to actually pry his camera from his hands at one point so she can get him in his own movie. This scene is meant to exemplify how lonely Mark truly feels amongst his friends who are all experiencing romance and have a connection to someone, whereas, his girlfriend dumped him for a lawyer named Joanne.

This helps to understand the extent of Mark’s loneliness and how it kills him inside to think that soon he’ll be the only remaining survivor among his friends and no matter how much he documents, eventually they’ll be forgotten.

I’ll never be over leaving ‘Goodbye Love’ movie because it takes away from an important director’s detail in ‘What You Own’. Here, we finally find out what Mark’s problem is. Everyone else’s issues are on the table, all on their sleeves, but Mark is the only seemingly ‘normal’ one. He doesn’t have AIDS, doesn’t have a love interest, doesn’t do drugs, or anything. He’s the main support for a lot of the characters, constantly tries to ease the tension with Collins.

After researching information about how other fans of the Broadway show and film interpreted Mark’s character through his solos, someone talked about how we truly see  his disconnect with the rest of the group, how left out he feels, how he tries to resolve the fact that all of his friends are dying by dissociating through film.

I seconded this opinion because Mark clearly detaches himself through his film, given he rarely appears in it, as stated previously. They also noted how in ‘What You Own,’while Roger is shown discontent with New Mexico, Mark gets more and more visibly upset, which is rare for his character. Then, the part he usually says into the phone, quitting his job to finish his own work, was instead shouted from the rooftop.

The Edge of Character Development

Another movie I saw recently is The Edge of Seventeen. I had to wait until after it came out on DVD because it wasn’t in any theaters near me, but I think it was worth it.

The Edge of Seventeen follows Nadine Franklin, a junior in high school, who is socially awkward, ostracized by her peers, and is nothing like her charismatic, popular brother who is obviously loved more by her mother.

The film begins with her storming into her teacher who she trusts’s classroom, saying she’s going to kill herself and she thought an adult should know. We then quickly jump into the moments leading up to her saying this to her teacher, where we learn how she ended up in this situation.tumblr_oaf4moAKNg1tamedoo1_250.gif

Her father, with whom she had a close relationship, died unexpectedly in front of her a few years prior and then her only friend starts dating her brother, ditching her for the “cool” kids.

Throughout the course of the movie, I think that Nadine has an epiphany and goes through a complete character change and the perspective it’s told in makes that transformation even stronger. By having the entire film from her point of view, like being first person if it were a book, the viewers see things the exact same way Nadine does, making it why it’s as relatable as it is.

Her character has a unique, but familiar voice that I know resonate with.

tumblr_okuzl6xezk1v4a8wfo1_500At the end, we see the situation of other characters from more of a third person kind of perspective. Viewers may not have previously thought about the situations of other characters because they were so wrapped up in Nadine’s drama. By the end, we learn that sarcastic, rude teacher Mr. Bruner is actually married, has a young son, and is a loving husband and father. Not something I would’ve expected by the way we see him through Nadine’s eyes.

Similarly, her brother Darian. We only really have this view of him as an arrogant, perfect, larger-than-life kind of guy who has everything going for him, but then we’re forced to see him in a new life when he finally confronts Nadine. We then realize he actually isn’t perfect, the weight his mother puts on him to be the father figure is killing him, as much as he can’t apply to out-of-state colleges because he fears something bad will happen while he’s gone. In addition to that, we see how much it hurts him to know he can’t be with Krista, Nadine’s former best friend, who he loves, without destroying Nadine in the process.

Prior to this, we never would’ve known this information until we, along with Nadine, stepped out of that self-absorbed bubble. Like many teens, we focus on ourselves because we are the priority. Atumblr_okx31nvxju1qfnjdfo1_500s Nadine said, a lot of us think that our problems are the most important and I think that’s what makes her a relatable character for a high school and teen audience. Through the help of her mentor and a newfound friend, Erwin, Nadine learns to see things from the perspectives of others, and that’s when she realized how narrow-minded she was being. She was so wrapped up in her own issues, she didn’t know anything about Erwin, like that he was making a short film or that his parents are rich and aren’t around a lot. From the beginning, she only saw situations how they affected her, like the death of her father, and not her mother and brother.

By the end of the film, Nadine is forced out of this mindset and sees the world without just herself. The main characters, particularly Nadine, undergo considerable change. I think something important to take away from watching this film is that the characters you see at the end are very different from their surface personality. By overcoming their personal challenges and issues, they grow into stronger characters.