Screening Now: Love at the Multiplex

On the way to the movies, we argued about nudity, with me claiming that it just gets in the way of a good story and her insisting that it's OK as long as it is rampant and gratuitous, like on a honeymoon.

"You sure about nudity?" I asked my wife.

"Positive," she said.

Or maybe it was the other way around. Maybe I argued in favor of nudity. The point is, we were on a date.

Tired of discussing the Kennedys, we'd escaped to the multiplex on maybe our 1,000th date, each one better than the last, each one an adventure in marital romance.

"How about 'The Thomas Crown Affair'?" she asked.

"I love Steve McQueen," I said.

"This is the new one," she said.

"I love Faye Dunaway," I said.

We had come to see something else, then spotted "The Thomas Crown Affair" on the marquee, a special preview two weeks before it would open.

"I love Steve McQueen," I said again.

"This is a remake," my wife said with a sigh.

"I know," I said, "but I love the guy."

Steve McQueen. "Sand Pebbles." "Bullitt." Car chases and daring motorcycle rides. Talk about your guy movies. Sometimes there'd be kissing, but somehow they were still guy movies.

I'm flashing back to the original "Thomas Crown Affair," a cool romantic thriller from the late '60s, back when movie stars had chiseled cheekbones and icy eyes and they weren't afraid to use them.

Frankly, it's a short flashback, because I don't remember all that much about "Thomas Crown," except that it had McQueen as a millionaire thief and Dunaway as an insurance investigator, a woman of dubious morals, maybe fewer morals than a thief would have. Which can be an interesting trait in an insurance investigator.

In the end, I remember Dunaway waiting in a cemetery for McQueen to show up. A great ending. Almost all I remember is the ending, with the Rolls-Royce slowly pulling up and the jet streaking overhead.

"Let's go," I told my wife, and she nodded, which is the sign of a good date, a lot of nodding and impulsive decisions.

"Popcorn?" I asked.

"Sure," she said impulsively.

"Sno Caps?" I said.

"Why not," she said with a nod.

As we waited in line for snacks, I bumped up against her shoulder, real softly, like on a first date. A gentle-gentle touch. Pre-foreplay.

"You have nice shoulders," I said.

"Quit bumping me," she said.

And we went into the theater, behind people who don't hold doors for other people, and we quickly discovered that all the seats in the middle were taken. One thousand dates and we've never had a seat in the middle.

It's as if these same people never leave, like they're always in the middle, living on movie food and mindless stimulation. The multiplex people, ruining it for everyone else.

"Over there," I said, pointing to a seat in right field.

"OK," she said.

So we sat down, sliding down low in the seats like teenagers do on their dates, looking almost straight up at the screen from our cheap seats there in right field.

"You sneak in some beer?" I asked her.

"I thought you were," she said.

And the previews started and it became impossible to talk. Used to be, it was rock concerts that ruined our hearing. Now it's movie trailers. Loud. Relentless. The Metallica of our middle age.

"Pass the popcorn!" I yelled.

"OK!" she yelled back.

Turns out, this remake of "Thomas Crown" is pretty good. The acting is so-so, but the new story is clever, with a terrific ending and some steamy romantic stuff that keeps the audience spellbound.

I know this because at one point the guy next to me was so spellbound that he stopped breathing. One moment, he was breathing really loud, through his mouth and ears, and the next he'd stopped breathing. Thought we were going to lose him, but when the movie ended, he got up and left.

"I liked it," I told my wife, gently bumping her shoulder as we left.

"I miss Steve McQueen," she said.

On the way home, we argued again about nudity, with me claiming that it just gets in the way of a good marriage and her insisting that it's OK with her, as long as it's rampant and gratuitous, like on a honeymoon.

Or maybe it was the other way around. The point is, we had a date. Our 1,000th date. Little by little, we're getting to know each other.

"Will I ever see you again?" I asked her on the front porch.

"I had fun," she said, not really answering the question.

Next week, I might ask her to dinner.


Chris Erskine's column is published on Wednesdays. His e-mail address is

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