Sunset Park

directed by Steve Gomer

It’s the summer of 2015 and my fiancé and I are signing the lease to our first apartment.

The entire process has been a long, anxiety-ridden test of our patience and bank accounts. She wants a place with natural light, a backyard, plenty of space, high-ceilings, big closets, hardwood floors; one that’s near public transportation and not too expensive. I think every single place we have seen is terrific. Let’s just pick one!

We finally find the perfect spot in South Brooklyn. It has everything on her list and meets my criteria: four walls and a roof.

The two of us meet with the landlord to sign all of the final paperwork. We discuss the tiny details:

“Oh, how long have you owned the building?”

“Should we mail the rent check directly to you?”

“Any way to take a look at that door that sticks a little bit?”

Everything checks out, and before we know it we’re the proud tenants of a beautiful new apartment in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Now off to the nearest tavern to celebrate with a cold beverage!

My fiancé and I enter the quiet, empty bar and begin chatting with the friendly woman behind the counter. We can hardly contain our excitement and immediately declare that she’ll be seeing a lot more of us in the near future.

She asks: “Where’s the new place?”

I explain that it’s one block up, two blocks over.

Her eyes grow wide in silent acknowledgement that I have spoken.

She waivers, then: “You know that used to be a pretty rough area a few years ago.”

It’s at that moment I remember the 1996 film “Sunset Park,” starring Rhea Pearlman.

I never saw the film when it was first released. I was a 6th grader in the Midwest and it wasn’t really on my radar. I do recall finding it odd that it came out only eight months after “Dangerous Minds.” Maybe someone was watching ‘Dangerous Minds’ and thinking, “Yeah —Michelle Pfeiffer is a very talented and beautiful actress. But come on! She’s no Rhea Pearlman! And this story — it’s a little weak, but we can make one far, far weaker with less compelling characters and a less popular soundtrack, right?”

I also remember my classmates bouncing up and down in the junior high locker room chanting: “SUNSET PARK — WHAT TIME IS IT? IT’S TIME TO GET LOUD! IT’S TIME TO REPRESENT!” At the time I thought: “Huh. That must be from that movie.” (Notice I did not say, “Huh. Sounds like a cute neighborhood for me and my fiancé to settle down twenty years from now.”)

Shortly after we moved into the apartment we opened a bottle of wine and finally watched the film. I have to say we’re both much happier with the apartment than we were with the movie.

But I’d be also lying if I didn’t also confess that when I walk out my door and head for the train I do occasionally think about how I need to represent.

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