My Life in Ruins

December 20, 2014

my life in ruinsI know that summer is over, but it never hurts to talk about a film that reminds you of vacation, of Greece, but also about the meaning of life and the pursuit of happiness. My Life in Ruins or Driving Aphrodite (how the Brits call it) is a 2009 romantic comedy starring Nia Vardalos, Richard Dreyfuss, Alexis Georgoulis, Alistair McGowan and others. The script is inspired by Mike Reiss’ travel experience, but also by Nia’s dream of making a film about her family’s homeland.

Georgia Ianakopolis is a professor of classical history, who lost her job at the University of Athens a year before and now she works as a tour guide for Pangloss Tours. She has no personal life, hates her current job and waits for the answer to the letter sent to the University of Michigan. Her lack of kefi (Greek term for passion or mojo) makes her not so likable and boring among the agency staff and the travellers, because she is very strict, she overwhelms the tourists with information about Ancient history and architecture and skips beach day. Another thing that makes her feel discontent is that her boss gives her the same kind of groups all the time. They are usually made of difficult people of different nations and they fall into a few categories recognisable by everyone who has travelled at least once with strangers: the naïvesthe kleptomaniacthe boozersthe old peoplethe dysfunctional familiesthe seducing divorcésthe businessmanthe annoying person who thinks that one’s jokes are funny and the tourists who don’t speak foreign languages. There are also a few stereotypes about people from different countries, but I won’t get into that. I only think that those types of behaviour and mentalities, as well as the categories mentioned above,  were introduced for comic and satirical purposes.

We see in the first half of the film that there is a lot of tension and misunderstanding between Georgia and her tourists, because she doesn’t understand why they enjoy more shopping and taking lunch breaks, rather than visiting the sights and listening to her talking about the magnificent Ancient World. But besides the tour guide’s lack of sympathy for the group, there are also Maria and Nico’s plots (played by Alistair McGowan and Bernice Stegers) to ruin Georgia’s reputation and Group B’s vacation; all theses lead to humorous situations. However, Georgia manages to keep everything under control with the help of her bus driver, Procopi (Poupi) Kakas (Alexis Georgoulis) and a witty pensioner, Irv Gideon (Richard Dreyfuss).

As the old saying goes, wisdom comes with age. Here, Irv uses his life experience to teach Georgia, pretty bluntly I would say, to live the my life in ruins 2moment, to stop complaining, to become more open-minded, to look for love and to have more fun. My favourite example is when she tells him that “I know every fact and every figure about this place. I mean, I love it here. And they just want to have fun. And I get it, but I don’t know how to make this job fun”. And Irv memorably replies in his hoarse voice: “Well if you call it a job, it ain’t fun”.  Unlike Georgia, who doesn’t have a clue, Irv and some of the travellers notice that Poupi likes the tour guide. Probably for this reason and to make the trip more fun for the others, Irv asks Georgia to tell some naughty stories from Greek mythology. That episode helped her realise who was having a crush on her.

But Irv is not only a modern Cupid or a part-time psychologist for Georgia, he is also a therapist for the rest of the group when he plays the role of the oracle. He answers more or less profound questions about life, marriage and some insignificant things that help the group bond and make each individual change into a better person. Maybe that’s why one of the fellow tourists nicknames the old man “Irvacle”.

The places that some of you will recognize in this film are symbols of both ancient and modern Greece: Olympia, Delphi, Acropolis, Athens. But also, for reasons I cannot understand, Alicante, Spain are also present. When it comes to music, the main theme is created by David Newman; the well-known theme from Zorba the Greek by Mikis Theodorakis couldn’t be missed from a film about Greece, along with two other Greek songs. All these tracks trigger a playful mood that blends perfectly with the storyline and the atmosphere.

There are many things to be said about this film, which I can watch a dozen times more than I have already done and I would never get bored of it. That being said, I will stop here, hoping that I have made you curious enough to watch it.

by Alina Andreea Cătărău

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One Response to My Life in Ruins

  1. Film Tag 2 | eLitere on September 11, 2016 at 6:00 am

    […] My Life in Ruins is a rom-com set in Greece, where Georgia Ianakopolis (Nia Vardalos) is working as tour guide for a short period of time and she’s not at all happy with her life. However, everything changes when she goes through different situations, most of them funny ones, caused by other characters, including the strange mixture of tourists who were in her group. This film has a lot of things I love: travel, Greece, comedy, romance, wittiness, self-discovery and, of course, mouth-watering sexy Poupi. […]

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