Alumni Profile • Maryanne Vandervelde '60
Alumni advocates movie groups, retirement planning

Maryanne VanderveldeEver walk out of a movie with someone and come to entirely different conclusions on the point of the film? Or disagree on the motivations of a key character in the movie?

A spirited discussion about a movie at a dinner party had Maryanne Vandervelde ’60 reflecting for days afterward about how intriguing the dialogue had been.

“There were a dozen or so of us at dinner, and when the name of a film came up, it was clear that some loved it, and some hated it,” Vandervelde recalled. “We were laughing and fighting. A friend and I thought that was so interesting, so we decided to make this happen regularly.”

Vandervelde and her friend enlisted seven couples and made up some “rules” for the new movie discussion group.

“One of our rules is that before anyone talks in detail, everyone must rate the movie from one to ten and tell why. We were worried that some might sit back and others might dominate, so this gets each person’s opinion out there,” she said.

Almost eight years later, the movie group is still going strong (pretty much once a month), and Vandervelde was inspired to write Films and Friends: Starting and Maintaining a Movie Group (St. Martin’s Press, 2004). The book describes how to begin a movie group and provides her group’s take on 58 films.

“The movie group idea is spreading, and it is a lot of fun to hear from people about how they’re doing their own group,” she said.

Vandervelde’s motivations for advocating the movie discussion group idea are four-fold. The first is a gender issue. “Book clubs are 80 percent women. Men generally aren’t interested in putting in the time,” she noted. “But watching a movie isn’t as time consuming, and the same deep themes are presented. I like learning from the male-female, husband-wife dynamics in our discussions.”

Two other motivations are growth-oriented. As a licensed psychologist, Vandervelde also believes that regular, purposeful gatherings such as movie discussion groups can deepen personal relationships and stimulate “personal growth epiphanies,” as common human issues and emotions are viewed and analyzed.

“Movies cover every issue — raising children, substance abuse, trust, politics, religion — any subject you can think about,” she said.

Finally — and she admits this is wishful thinking — Vandervelde hopes that movie groups might one day spur the film industry to make more thoughtful motion pictures, in much the same way that the popular book clubs spawned by Oprah Winfrey have caused book publishers to take notice.

And although Films and Friends attracted notice from television talk shows, the busy Vandervelde has another book out this year, titled Retirement for Two (Bantam, 2004), that is getting her back on the national media circuit. She appeared on the CBS Early Show in August.

She believes her research about the lives of couples in retirement is very timely, “with 77 million baby boomers retiring within the next 15 years or so.”

While there are numerous books out about retirement, many of those concern financial matters rather than relational issues. Vandervelde has even established an Institute for Couples in Retirement and is contacted for seminars and consultations.

“Retirement can be an interesting growth time, but there are also dangers,” she noted. “There are issues surrounding time management, children and grandchildren and even pets. All of a sudden one is with their spouse 24/7 and might be saying, ‘Who is this person?’ One has to be intentional about planning for this exciting phase of life.”

Vandervelde lives on Mercer Island, near Seattle, Wash., with her husband of 42 years, Ray Looney. She keeps up a Web site — www.brookbaybooks.com — on her publishing exploits.

What’s her favorite movie? Without a pause, she replied, “Cinema Paradiso, a wonderful Italian film. It’s three hours long, but worth it. Get the director’s cut.”