Time can play tricks on your mind.
Not simply in the whole nostalgia-warping-everything-to-make-it-seem-better space but in over-emphasising certain parts of a something you love, such, oh say, a movie, over others to the point where your perceptions of what actually take place don’t actually represent the totality of what you remember watching.
Home Alone (1990), directed by Chris Columbus to a screenplay the John Hughes, is a prime example of this weirdly undocumented phenomenon.
If you ask most people what they recall about this now iconic film starring Macaulay Culkin as eight-year-old Chicagoan named Kevin McCallister who gets left behind by his fractiously chaotic family in their desperate dash to the airport, you’d likely be regaled with laugh-filled recollections of the inept “Wet Bandits” Harry and Marv, played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern respectively, doing their level best to break into Kevin’s family home and being rebuffed by a cringe-inducing array of foot damaging, face smashing, hair burning booby traps.
It is admittedly a very funny part of the film, as once-scared of everything Kevin decides to fight back to protect his home, which he now alone occupies with an array of Christmas baubles, tar, icy steps and glue and feathers.
The inner-five-year old in most people gets a good, sustained workout as the Wet Bandits discover, to their great cost eventually, that Kevin is no frightened of the shadows kid anymore.
That’s the key point here.
In amongst all the inspired fun and hilarity and slapstick that would land most people in the emergency department in no time flat, what we’re seeing is Kevin growing up a lot in a very short space of time.
It’s the central driving idea in a very clever, very funny narrative, and whiles you are meant to laugh, and should laugh, a lot, what you’re also meant to notice is how much this once-bratty young kid is growing up, and growing up fast as his frantic mother Kate (Catherine O’Hara) frantically tries to get back home to him.
After initially being afraid of the furnace and hiding under the bed as Harry and Marv make their first exploratory forays into the neighbourhood and specifically to Kevin’s family’s house, Kevin realises there’s a lot of things he can do that he would have once run to his mum to do.
He can go grocery shopping for instance and deal with cheeky aplomb with a too-inquisitive cashier who wonders why one kid is buying all these groceries.
He’s able, in the end, to tell the furnace monster to shut up, to do loads of washing and to clean up and to cook and to become a ridiculously capable boy for whom the world is full of not fears but possibilities.
It’s a lot of fun to watch because all these big moments of growing up, away from Kevin’s family whom he realises he loves and doesn’t want Santa to have disappeared, are populated by some brilliant moments of physical theatricality.
Watching Kevin running up and down the stairs with hands in the air abandon or live out every kids fantasy of jumping up and down on their parents’ bed without once being told to stop it or eating a massive bowl of ice cream while watching a fake vintage film Angels With Filthy Souls that he would never be allowed watch under normal circumstances is a lot of giddy, smile-inducing fun.
But it’s the sweeter because it all takes place in the context of Kevin coming to grips with the fact that he’s been a bratty douche and needs to grow up and look after himself and others better, a realisation which leads to what is undeniably the beating, deeply affecting art of this film.
Yes, the film you remember for its funny getting back at the idiot burglars sequence, which is admittedly one of the best festive stress relieving bits of moviemaking in existence, really pivots about Kevin getting to know scary Old Man Marley (Roberts Blossom) and realising that he too is not as frightening as he once thought.
In fact, Marley, who proves to be a guardian angel just when the young Home Alone protagonist needs him most, is actually just a lonely old man estranged from his son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter, who simply wants to have a meaningful connection to his family again.
The fact that he is impelled to do that by Kevin, and we see the payoff later in the film as Kevin watches the touching reunion scene through a snow-blurred window, is proof of how far this young man has come.
And at Christmas no less, a time which, in all kinds of entertainment from books to film and TV shows, is one of redemption and change, a rarefied step away from the unchanging grind and unceasing reality of everyday life where it is possible to become another person entirely.
Marley is the most obvious manifestation of Kevin’s transformation but he is not the only one, and while we remember Kevin besting the “Wet Bandits” with a little help from his new friend, we see in countless humourously inspired scenes through this near-perfect Christmas film just how powerfully the season can change a person.
Even an eight-year-old boy who is at one time rude to his mum, rude to his siblings, unable to do anything for himself and argumentative and not that nice to be around into the bargain, and who becomes someone else entirely.
Kevin is everyone who ever wanted to be in charge of the things that scare them in life, who want to be able to take their fears and turn them into something positive and who wants to take the seemingly uncontrollable things in life and best them with clever jibes, inspired tactics and a sense of winning confidence that they will prevail, and do so handsomely.
Life rarely plays out quite that way but it does for Kevin who doesn’t just get the bad guys the justice they deserve or the good guy the family he needs or the return of the parents and siblings he actually realises he loves and misses, but a whole new life courtesy of a fun-filled and meaningful transition that occurs, rather happily, among the bright lights, vibrant music and fun and festivity of the most wonderful time of the year.