Instilled in the American Dream are the ideas of upward mobility, of success, and prosperity. For those that make it, we hear their stories and we often look up to them for what they have achieved; but for those that don’t, we rarely have the same amount of time or interest. In Jason Tippet’s film My Gal, Rosemarie we meet two people who didn’t make it and are living day-to-day on social security, the American Dream a long faded aspiration. Ray and Rosemarie have been married for fifty years, and as her 90th birthday approaches, Ray tries to get enough cash together so he can splash out on Rosemarie’s favorite treat – hamburgers from In-N-Out Burger.
“Most things don’t work out in life, and that’s ok, but it’s how you handle your failures and disappointments”
It is a story of small lives, and the film is honest about who Ray and Rosemarie are and how they live. Director Jason met the subjects for this documentary living downstairs in his apartment complex; “I’d often see Rosemarie sitting outside with a cup of coffee in the morning watching the hummingbirds, so one day I joined her. She talked of her love for birds and animals and creatures, and the old days when she met the love of her life. Ray is his name, and while it hasn’t been perfect, they made a lifetime of it”. This is perhaps understating it, as it is clear that little in their lives has ever really gone their way and the limited horizons of their world are clear from the cluttered nature of their apartment, through to Ray hunting through garbage for cans to be able to buy Rosemarie a burger for her birthday.
If it sounds depressing, it isn’t, because the couple have always had each other and the film captures the wonderful sense of peace and contentment that exists between the couple, presenting it with a delicate balance which is touching but yet avoids sentimentality. There is a remarkable lack of bitterness or anger in either of them, and it was this aspect of their relationship that attracted Jason to capture them on film – “their situation gave me perspective. Most things don’t work out in life, and that’s ok, but it’s how you handle your failures and disappointments. I make documentaries, so it’s nice to get some perspective on what a lifetime of disappointment looks like”.
He kids of course, as Jason is currently busy on the second documentary feature in a trilogy on Santa Clarita (the first being 2012’s Only the Young), as well as collaborating with musician Nick Thorburn (frontman of bands such as The Unicorns, Islands) on a semi-fictionalized piece on his life.