Bryan Rowland’s haunting, luminous new film, Preserve, is as fine an introduction of Blake Lively’s new lifestyle site Preserve as I could imagine. The film and the site invoke the magic of preserving the dream that is now.
Here’s to that!
It is a bit early for me to pass judgment on Preserve — it’s young, and I more than anyone appreciates that things evolve, particularly in the immediacy that is digital space, and good things sometimes need time to marinate. Preserve is a bit earnest for me at the moment, a bit trying-to-hard, but there’s no shame in your reach exceeding your grasp.
As a Southerner, I love that Preserve feels familiar, though it isn’t the South I know. Still, it contains familiar echoes. It oozes food cooked slow on the stove, and peas being shelled on the porch, and un-fancy white folks sitting outside a trailer in a lawn chair in a scraggly patch of lawn, or un-fancy black ones sitting up on a rocking chair on the porch.
Time will tell what Preserve does with its carefully curated South, but I’m hoping it will be every bit as beautiful as Bryan Rowland’s beautiful, beautiful film, which takes me inside a dream vision of the South that I enjoy visiting, even if like everything in a fictional universe, it isn’t real.
I want to be a Blake supporter because I see what she’s up to and know how hard it really is. She’s building a for-profit business, of course, and she’s very upfront about that, but she’s also trying to figure out what it and she are gonna be. I can see her pulling the strings, I can see her clumsy rumblings, but as someone who has been learning to fumble myself, and to do it willingly where others can see, I offer her much respect.
What Blake and her team have done beautifully is articulate an idea for a brand, and given it breath. The writing is overwrought at times, and not fully ingenuous, I don’t think, but this isn’t a failure of integrity so much as it is an honest struggle to figure out how to say what you want to say, and how to speak it in your own true voice — an endeavor complicated by the good but complicated fortune of having a staff of creatives to help her articulate what, at the end of the day, is, I presume, her vision. It can take decades to find your one true voice, many decades longer than Blake has been alive, and I see Preserve as part of the process we all undergo across our lifetimes of repeatedly refining who we are. I admire most people who do it in public, because there is courage in being your evolving self where people can see you. It subjects you to a lot of criticism, which Preserve has already received, some of it quite mean-spirited and unfair, such as criticisms rooted in her wealth or in the price of the objects she sells on her site, which, in my opinion, are reasonably priced though, yes, not at the mass-market end of the price game.
What I hope Preserve will become as time passes is more authentic. When they “posit that a barbecue is an inherently a medieval affair,” I don’t believe them because I don’t know in what universe that is true — certainly not in the South, where I and Blake are from. That aside, I do want to try Preserve’s recipe for Kick Ass Baby Back Ribs. I trust that they’ll be good. And I do want to remember that I and my body can “Heal Thyself,” because that resonates as true and I believe Blake is living that life. I want, in other words, to be in conversation with the things that Preserve is about. In fact, I already am, as are all the people who will engage with the site.
Preserve is trying to find what I call “the elevated authentic,” that space where the real can meet the beautiful. This imagined space means a lot to me as someone who cares deeply, with a hunger that cannot be sated, for the real things in this world.
I want this world to be better in so many ways, I want us to all feel deeper into the meat of our live. I want our lives to come from a real place instead of the places of fear and anger and suffering that too many of us live from too much of the time. I do not think the real need to be separated from the beautiful. I think it’s okay to embrace real things in a beautiful way and, like Blake, I believe that the little beautiful things we fill our lives with can make our lives better. This isn’t a materialist approach, but it is an approach that attempts to erase the artificial line between form and substance, between matter and spirit, between ideas and their expressions.
Preserve both means well/does well and looks good. It’s visually bold — the dark color palette, the dark aesthetic. It’s bold in its transparency about what its up to (making money and doing a little good). Okay, so it may be guilty, as some have said, of selling useless things to rich people, but hey, rich people gonna buy useless things, and some of those things are beautiful and, therefore, in my opinion, worthwhile.
The question isn’t whether Preserve caters to the rich because, really, who cares. It’s an aspirational site and, yeah, maybe we can’t or won’t choose to buy everything on it, but it’s fun to look at anyway. As expensive things go, Preserve’s are fairly cheap, but the question isn’t whether people can afford to buy the things; its whether the things being offered are things people want to know about and whether the content Blake and her team share is something that speaks to us. As Preserve finds its voice more and more, I’m betting that the answer will be yes. They’re already off to a pretty good start, and pretty good trumps perfect in my book.
VIDEO BY BRYAN ROWLAND via Preserve
PAULA PURYEAR is a Lawyer, Film & Television writer, HuffPoster and Founder of Revel In It Mag.