How movie characters put up with self-isolation

We’ve all used our weeks-long coronavirus quarantines for a variety of pursuits: family bonding, meditation, counting down the days until we’re no longer in this God-forsaken quarantine. But as our list of confinement activities starts to dwindle, perhaps we can get inspired by the movies.

Nobody does productive loneliness quite like film characters, whether it’s Luke Skywalker abandoning his Jedi roots on a craggy island or Norma Desmond working on her comeback screenplay and hosting monkey funerals. Being in a movie, these folks can’t just laze about watching Netflix all day like an average schlub. They get stuff done, and so can you.

Take Mark Watney. When the astronaut (Matt Damon) is left for dead on Mars in “The Martian” (2015), he doesn’t mope over the red planet’s inhospitable conditions for human life, with its minus-80-degree temperatures and total lack of air. He plants a garden! Mark cuts up pieces of potatoes, puts them in some dirt and fertilizes the soil using, well, we’ll skip that bit. Point is, if Mark can plant spuds on Mars, you can figure out basil on your fire escape.

Matt Damon in "The Martian."Matt Damon in “The Martian.”Everett Collection

Elsa managed to build a whole dang house. After the new queen’s magic powers to create instant ice and snow freak out her subjects in 2013’s “Frozen,” she sets off into the cold Nordic wilderness, never to return. Does Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) seek refuge in a cave or her trusty Coleman tent? No, she embraces her inner Bob Vila and builds a fantastical ice palace. Heck, I just wanna touch up my baseboards.

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” I hear ya, Stephen King. In 1980’s “The Shining,” Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) starts a job looking after the cavernous — and haunted — Overlook Hotel in Colorado, and he becomes dangerously possessed by its spirits. In need of an exorcism, Jack still finds time to indulge his artistic side, stationing himself in front of a desk and typing out page after page of text. Sure, the prose is a bit repetitive, but the creative process is nothing if not mysterious.

Have you tried baking a sourdough bread yet? I have, and the result is now in the garbage can along with my job application to Levain Bakery. Someone who fared much better in the kitchen during isolation is Mr. V, of “V for Vendetta.” In the 2005 comic book flick, the Guy Fawkes-masked vigilante (Hugo Weaving) hides in an underground apartment, plotting against a dystopian, oppressive British government. And making tasty treats! When Natalie Portman’s Evey arrives in his catacomb flat, he fries her an egg in a basket for which anyone would gladly social distance.

Hugo Weaving as V in "V for Vendetta."Hugo Weaving as V in “V for Vendetta.”Everett Collection

But you got to work off all those carbs. Physical fitness is important, even when all alone at home. Options include taking short walks, doing yoga, running on the treadmill or even playing a solo sport. You might even try talking to the ball. When Tom Hanks’ FedEx man gets stranded on an island in “Cast Away,” in 2000, he’s got no one to shoot the breeze with — not even on a Zoom call. So, he paints a face on a volleyball and, famously, calls it Wilson.

I don’t know about you, but I’m halfway there.

Tom Hanks in "Cast Away."Tom Hanks in “Cast Away.”Everett Collection


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