Don't cheat the audience!!

WARNING: Long post follows. Proceed with caution.

As usual, I've been watching several movies as of late. In theaters, I finally got to see The Help and One Day. I also rewatched two films that made my top ten lists for '09 and '10 respectively: Up in the Air and 127 Hours. And I also checked out a movie whose trailer I randomly found on youtube called The Good Guy starring Alexis Bledel (no, she did not play the titular character haha.) Now since these movies are spread pretty well all over the board..I can't really speak for them collectively. But did come to some interesting insights in comparing and contrasting them that I feel the need to rant about...I mean share.

Obviously I once again enjoyed the films that made my top ten lists, but I also quite liked The Help. More on the good ones later.

Right now, I'm going to talk about what was reallllly lacking from both One Day and The Good Guy. Both films had likable actors in the roles, decent storyline and plenty of potential. But they forgot one important thing (okay probably more than one thing...but that's beside the point...they forgot the most unforgivable one) the importance of giving your audience a payoff. If the point of your movie is to get two characters together after tons of conflict and other factors keeping them apart...you know it's good for the audience to actually SEE the moment and hear the dialogue that makes that event actually happen. That's what the audience has been waiting to see and you choose not to show it?? That's the point of these sorts of movies! You can't cheat your audience out of the payoff they deserve and sat through your movie to get. And if you do....well that really won't endear you to them. It'd be like watching The Empire Strikes Back seeing Luke leave to battle with Vader. Then the next scene he comes back with his hand chopped off and informs everyone that not only did Vader do it...but he's his father now too.

Or 127 hours...if one moment James Franco was there pinned to a rock and the next scene he's in the hospital. The audience earned the moments of reward. You can't not show them!

Both One Day and The Good Guy made this mistake. I won't go into too much detail because it'd be pretty spoilery. But, if you see either one you'll know the moment where you can't help thinking the editor forgot to include a scene (very important scenes at that)! But, like I said the movies both had plenty other flaws. The Good Guy was just cheaply made...it had some decent performances and even some interesting things to say (ie: Just because they're the narrator, you shouldn't always trust them,) but the script in other areas was just lacking.

One Day, on the other hand, had no excuse. This movie, with all the talent behind it...should have been good. Instead, it felt like another go round of the Nicolas Sparks merry-go-round....complete with a maudlin plot twist. Even before the dreadful third act something was lacking...there wasn't enough earnestness or eagerness that made you long to see the couple together. The beginning starts off well enough, but it loses steam before the disaster end. It's funny though because it really all is about execution though. Good plot turns should throw the audience for a loop. They shouldn't be able to see them coming because there's nothing left to happen. They should serve the story well and not betray or manipulate the audience. Now don't misunderstand me....that's not to say they shouldn't make the audience feel something. They most certainly should. And Up in the Air is the perfect example of one done right. It feels like a punch to the gut to the audience because it feels so for the character...NOT because some hack writer went in there and devised some tragedy because he didn't know where to take the characters from there.

That's the quite the opposite of The Help, 127 Hours and Up in the Air which have very well thought out character studies. It doesn't hurt that the films all feature very strong performances and tight scripts either. I read up on the real life facts of Aron Ralston, and it certainly makes you appreciate all that he overcame even more. The film is incredible and James Franco is magnificent. In Up in the Air the three leads all give excellent performances as well, and there's just so much going on with the dialogue. It's not the easiest movie to watch, but it sure gives you a lot to think about in regards to work, economy, love and relationships. And finally, I'd have to say I really enjoyed The Help a lot. There is not a weak link in the ensemble cast...many of these performances are award worthy! The film is incredibly entertaining and though I have seen people excusing it for being not the most racially sensitive/PC I would have to say I had a great time and liked it a lot.

Sadly, there's not a lot coming out this weekend that I'm interested in. It's going to be a long Fall. But luckily the t.v. shows are coming back! Maybe I'll have to start reviewing new series if the movies are still lacking! I am looking forward to the show with Zooey Deschanel in it...for obvious reasons.

One last thought. It's funny to me that both One Day and Crazy, Stupid, Love both drew from ideas from movies before them....and those movies did what they wanted to do so much better. If you want to watch a movie with two friends taking several years before realizing they're right for each other....go watch When Harry Met Sally. Seriously...it's a wonderful film. And the whole playboy learning to let relationships become a part of his life and let even the most unusual relationships form as a result of having a protege...well that was done a lot better in About A Boy. Just my two cents. Maybe one day someone will actually be able to improve on an idea...but until then....stick with the better films I guess!


Johanna said...

Well, you know how I feel about "About A Boy." Amazing movie and especially love the dual narration.

"Up in the Air" made you think about it for days afterward and I love when a movie does that.

As far as "The Help" I did enjoy it and it included strong performances and captured the period beautifully. But I do think there were too many characters to really get invested in. But they were all well-written, even if slightly one-dimensional. And it made me want to read the book...which is a great compliment to a movie!

Laurie & Clint said...

I love About a Boy!

Sarah said...

I would prefer NOT to see James Franco cut off his arm! Edit that scene out for me, please!

Sometimes it takes a little time and hindsight to realize that the newer film didn't do it as well.

Sabrina is the perfect example of that. The classic version with Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, and William Holden is just perfection from beginning to end. It is funny and it has a lot of heart.

The new version of Sabrina with Julia Ormond and Harrison Ford initially struck me as a good remake, just more sentimentally done.

But now, a few years down the road, it just seems...forgettable.

It's quite a challenge to be fresh and unique in the movies these days. That's why when someone accomplishes that now, it is perhaps even more laudable in many ways.