I remember going to theater to see the movie Michael with my mother when it was released in late 1996 and recall clearly that neither one of us liked it very much. Looking back on it now, I realize I was still in the throes of panic and anxiety disorder at the time and had just spent several weeks undergoing medical tests to determine that there was absolutely no physical problem causing the symptoms I was experiencing. By December of 1996, the acute phase had passed but I still hadn’t yet encountered Francis Fox, the woman who would help me put an end to it once and for all.
The purpose of that set-up is to demonstrate that given my state of mind, the message embedded in a film like Michael was too esoteric for my comprehension, although the people who’d recommended it saw the movie strictly as a comedy (which it is). However, there’s so much more to Michael than just some great laughs because the comic relief is a vehicle for a much deeper understanding.
This past weekend while hanging out at a friend’s house I had the opportunity to watch Michael again. And nearly 20 years later, due to various factors including significant spiritual and emotional growth, I saw it with new eyes. I discovered that one of the many messages conveyed through this entertaining, poignant and humorous film is that the angels want us to be happy and enjoy life. Yes, we have responsibilities like work and family, and an imperative to fight against injustice, tyranny and other kinds of evil. But life isn’t just about suffering and pain.
For those who don’t remember or have never seen the film, Michael is an embodied angel who comes to earth. He’s living with an old woman (played by Jean Stapleton) who owns a motel somewhere in Iowa. After the woman sends a letter to a popular tabloid about the angel living in her home, the paper’s publisher sends two reporters to check it out. The owner of the paper is just looking for a big scoop with an even bigger payoff when he sends his skeptical reporters off to do their jobs. But none of them have any idea what awaits them when they descend upon the desolate midwestern town. Nor are they prepared for the monumental impact Michael will have upon their lives as an unexpected turn of events necessitates a road trip back to the paper’s Chicago headquarters — at Michael’s insistence. His refusal to board a plane initially confounds them, but as their adventure unfolds his motives become very clear. Michael’s all about enjoying the journey and showing his new friends how to do the same.
I really enjoyed the set-up for the story and its cast of characters. When Michael foreshadows to Frank (William Hurt) that he will apologize when Michael gives the order, it piqued my curiosity. And when it finally happens, it ushers in a life-changing realization for two of the characters. But Michael has a profound effect on everyone he meets along the way to Chicago — from fawning waitresses to the cute little dog that’s part of their posse. He savors every human experience with unbridled enthusiasm — from the sweetness of sugar (a scene early on in the film involving sugar and cereal grossed me out the first time around) to the joy of dancing.
There are countless examples of the angel’s desire to show people how to live. For those who haven’t seen Michael or don’t remember much about the plot, I won’t spoil it here. Either way, it is highly recommended viewing and I’m thrilled to have taken the time to watch it again, free from the burden of panic disorder and assisted by the insights that come with both age and personal growth.
Featuring a talented cast including John Travolta, Jean Stapleton, William Hurt and Andie MacDowell, Michael will warm your heart, make you laugh and encourage you to live life to the fullest.