What makes a story whimsical?
Tonight, I watched Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium and yes, as you'd guess from the title, it was whimsical.
It's a sweet story about an eccentric owner of a magical toy store (Dustin Hoffman) who wants his store manager (Natalie Portman ) to trust in her own ability to create magic. Then there's young hat collector Eric (Zach Mills), who lives and breathes the store but struggles to make friends, and the very un-magical Henry (Jason Bateman), an accountant - or 'mutant' as the Emporium trio call him - trying to make sense of several hundred years of paperwork and unable to see the miraculous around him.
There are no real surprises in the tale, but the engaging cast, and a script that doesn't patronise its audience, makes it easy to get caught up in the idea that the only thing limiting our enjoyment of life (and the little wonders in it) is our lack of imagination.
Is that what whimsy is? The ability to see beyond the obvious, to find something "more" in everyday life? My friend Bec (who has a fantastic blog called 'Special Small Stuff' http://specialsmallstuff.blogspot.com/) understands this all too well. I recommend her musings when you want to find a serene corner of the world to spend a few minutes in.
I'd love to be able to write the sort of fable-esque story that leaves people feeling the way I did when I left the cinema tonight ... wanting to see the best in the world. Part of me knows it's a naivety, and that in itself is kind of sad.
On the way home tonight, I tuned in to ABC Classic FM. It was broadcasting a Christmas concert by the Adelaide Chamber Singers, recorded in St Peter's Cathedral. Listening to those beautiful voices singing 17th century carols seemed oddly appropriate for my mood. Which made me wonder why fantasy (like the movie) and human voices singing songs from another age have more power to transport us beyond ourselves than most contemporary songs, stories etc.
Then again, maybe I've just finally caught the spirit of the season, and am starting to think beyond the next thing on my to-do list...