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June 17, 2010

At the Movies

A couple of weeks ago, Jennifer and I went to See "Sex and the City 2." After just ten minutes, we walked out. I don't think I have ever walked out of a movie before, but definitely not after just ten minutes.

I have asked for my money back on a movie, though. (Not for Sex and the City, sadly. We used passes. Still a waste.) The movie I got my money back for seeing was "Sommersby." I must have been in college already, and my friend Stefanie and I went to see this movie at the mall. We were both on very lean budgets so going to the movies was a treat. We both got sucked into the story and from what I remember the performances were good (this was over 15 years ago, yikes, I am old, moving on.)

So I did what audiences are expected to do in a movie -- suspend reality, sink into it. And now I am going to tell you how it ends, so if your whole life you wanted to see Somersby and still want a surprise you should stop reading.

This movie strings you along into a deepening fantasy and romantic love story for 112 minutes of your life and then in the last two minutes they suddenly wake up, decide to inject REALITY into the plot and kill the romantic hero. Kill him off, just like that. The end, roll the effing credits, screw you, audience! You thought it was a Cinderella tale set in the Reconstruction? Ha! Fooled you! Suckers!

I have never hated a movie as much as I hated that movie. So I marched over to the ticket booth and demanded our money back and got it. It was also the night I developed my "Somersby Theory of Moviegoing" which has now been expanded to books and TV shows. I will not spend my time or money on a movie (or show or book, usually, though sometimes I give books more of a pass) that asks me to suspend disbelief for a portion of my life and then at the end injects some flawed reality just for the hell of it and kills off the person you're invested in. Won't do it. It's FANTASY, people. Unless I am watching an autobiography, I do not want your reality. I want costumes, hair, makeup, and a script that doesn't cop out with a sad tearjerker cemetery scene just because the writer had no idea how to craft a decent ending.

So now I ask. I ask ahead of time, "Does the dragon/dog/ogre/hot leading actor die in the end?" It drives some people crazy. They cannot fathom wanting to know the end before it happens. For them, the whole movie is about the twist at the end. But I can't relax if I think I'm about to get Somersbied. Some people refuse to tell me so I have to google it instead.

The most recent example was "The Hurt Locker." (By the way, I LOVED this movie. LOVED.) Before I saw it I was talking with my friend Cindi, who'd just seen it, and I asked her if Jeremy Renner dies at the end. I was on the fence about seeing it, since I can't imagine spending two hours watching Jeremy Renner be a hero then have to sit through his death. In my Somersby Theory of Moviegoing, I know I would prefer to know ahead of time if he's croaking at the end. That way I can make an informed decision, you see. And if he does croak, by knowing ahead of time I'm not stressed out the whole time. Knowing the character's fate ahead of time doesn't keep me from seeing a movie, but I need to know. I need to manage my expectations.

"Cindi," I asked, "does the cute guy die at the end?"

"I'm not telling you that!" said Cindi. She was aghast. Offended, even.

"No, I really want to know. I have to know before I see it," I said.

"No way," she said. "That ruins the whole movie."

"Oh really?" I asked. "Maybe it ruins the movie for you, but for some of us who spent over two hours worrying about the fate of the freaking teddy bear in 'A.I.,' I can assure you that knowing the outcome is the only way to enjoy the movie. All I remember about AI is the anxiety about the freaking teddy bear."

She just stared. Apparently she did not see AI, or if she did, she managed to move past the perils of the teddy bear and see the actual movie happening around it. She refused to tell me if Jeremy Renner's character died or not so I had to google it. The internet has made my Somersby Theory much more enforceable.

I saw The Hurt Locker and it was tense, even knowing the outcome, but the good kind of tense. Enjoyable. There are some movies my Somersby Theory has saved me from, though. "Phenomenon" comes to mind. "Powder." Some movie years ago with a dragon. There was a time in the 1990s when every other movie had some horrible "let's kill the protagonist" ending. It was like an entire generation of screenwriters wrote themselves into a box and at the end the only way they could wrap it up was to kill the main character and roll the credits. "City of Angels" was outstandingly awful (HATED HATED that movie. You want me to buy Nicholas Cage as an angel and then two hours later you want to turn your movie into some stupid nightly news show about a senseless car wreck? Maybe it worked in the original German version in the 1980s but a 1990s hollywood blockbuster remake with an almost insultingly bad ending? COME ON. Like a surgeon would ride a bike on a blind curve on an unfamiliar mountain road with her EYES SHUT.) (Come to think of it, I got my money back on that movie, too.)

I know that everyone is not like me and some will find this insane. Some people like being jerked into reality, some people like jagged endings, some people like horror movies and being scared and surprised. Me, I like knowing ahead of time. I flip to the last page in a particularly engaging mystery book. Yep, you heard me. I like to know how it ends because then I can go back and enjoy the unraveling of the story. After all, it's fiction, it's fantasy. Maybe it's because in real life I never know what will happen next. Or maybe I'm just wound too tightly. It doesn't bother me one bit but Lord it seems to freak other people out. The idea of the surprise ending is sacrosanct.

I just like to know ahead, is all. Preparation is the key to success!

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Comments are still off because I have not managed to fix or break anything with great success.

Posted by laurie at June 17, 2010 6:40 AM