The lights dim. The chatter becomes a gentle lull. The smell of buttery popcorn pervades the air, and I sink back into the padded chair.
The last of the trailers fades from the screen and the music gently swells. I lean forward expectantly. “The Ultimate Gift.”
It starts out with an overdressed funeral for billionaire “Red” Stevens. The punk grandson that roars in halfway through the burial service. A family that morbidly awaits the verdict of the will. One by one the estate is parceled off until only Jason, the grandson, is left, and we wait for the Hollywood magic to begin.
But the reverse happens; Jason has lived the life of a spoiled playboy looking for nothing but fun, but the glitz and glamour he expects to inherit from his grandfather turn out to be painful doses of reality.
His grandfather didn’t want to give Jason money, he wanted to give Jason gifts. First the gift of work, with a month of manual labor on a cattle farm. The gift of money when he instantly goes penniless for a month. The gift of learning. The gift of friendship. The gift of family. One by one his sham values fall away.
The most poignant moments are indeed his relationship with others. Without money, his “friends abandon him.” All attempts to buy friends with future finances fail, and a saucy little 8 year-old saves the day.
And it is really she who teaches the rest of movie’s lessons. Terminally ill with leukemia, she provides a sincere and poignant if somewhat audacious example of selfless love for her single mother. She finally succeeds in waking Jason up to the real values of life and love, especially when… ah, but I get ahead of myself.
The ultimate gift is not the two billion dollars in assets that Red Stevens leaves his grandson, but rather the love he expresses in his final video message. The gift is love, and only now is Jason ready to receive and recognize it.
The music fades out as the screen scrolls through the last of the credits but the smell of buttery popcorn stubbornly lingers in the air. I am back to the real world. No, my world does not include a two billion dollar gift, but it is full of these painful lessons of love. That is what makes life worth living. This is the real worry and what gives meaning to my life. The ultimate gift is love.
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