Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Every once in a while you'll find a movie on Rotten Tomatoes that is so far removed from the rating it has received it's not even funny. Before Sunrise for example has a 100% rating for example, and its sequel Before Sunset has almost the same, coming in at 94%. The problem with Before Sunset is best summed up in this review:
The experiences they talk about are like so many sound-bites; they haven't internalized the wisdom that the words suggest.Because of that the characters come out flat, and the movie feels like little more than two characters being made to explain a few basic concepts on life and philosophy that those making the movie deemed to be important. This review is also right on target.
At the same time there are a number of extremely good movies that deserve a much better rating than they've received, and one of them is The Weather Man, a 2005 piece starring Nicolas Cage. The interesting thing about Nicolas Cage is that the bad movies he stars in are overrated and vice versa for the good movies he stars in, either through reviews or box office results ($37 million for Matchstick Men vs. $173 million for National Treasure). The Weather Man got even less than Matchstick Men with $12 million, which is a shame as it is one of the best movies put out that year.
The problem with the people that reviewed the film is that strangely enough they seemed to find it depressing. Comments like "I'm pretty sure it doesn't get more depressing than this", "A bleak, messy midlife crisis drama as unsure of itself as a weather forecast", "As much fun as standing outside in a blizzard for two hours without a coat", and so on. Very puzzling.
This reminds me a bit of this speech by Neil DeGrasse Tyson on the immensity of the cosmos and how the realization of this makes some people feel depressed (!), while those who truly understand what the cosmos is feel the opposite way - they feel large, part of something much bigger and much older than themselves, the end result of billions and billions of years of creation. If that doesn't make you feel large then I don't know what will.
The other quote it reminds me of is this one by Anthony DeMello:
You've got to drop something. You've got to drop illusions. You don't have to add anything in order to be happy; you've got to drop something. Life is easy, life is delightful. It's only hard on your illusions, your ambitions, your greed, your cravings.So that seems to be the reaction of those that found The Weather Man to be a depressing film. They were expecting a film where the main character ends up falling madly in love with a French girl on the train, everybody is healthy and cheery, an old man comes to teach the main character to use The Force, who knows. But what they got was a movie about dealing with life exactly the way it is with no holds barred, and perhaps this was a bit of a shock. I don't want to spoil the ending but suffice to say it leaves you with a really great sort of sublime feeling afterward.
Also don't pay any attention to those that say the character of David Spritz is an uninteresting, unlikable one. It's actually quite the opposite. The main character is played so well that you feel like you've known him for years instead of less than two hours - as this review puts it, even his name tells you something important about what sort of person he is.
The other reason for the low reviews may have been the audacity of a director who made Pirates of the Caribbean attempting to make something this meaningful afterwards. As this review puts it:
Artistically, this may be Gore Verbinski's best film -- certainly it's his most ambitious and daring. And that in itself works against it in a twisted way with many film snobs crying out, "How dare this commercial filmmaker presume to tackle something weighty?" After this, they conclude that it's not weighty at all, thereby proving the wisdom of their ire over the very idea that the man who made Pirates of the Caribbean should so overstep his bounds. Personally, I'm reasonably convinced that this same film could have been signed by Alexander Payne and it would be proclaimed a masterpiece. (I am less convinced that Payne could have made a movie this good, but that's a separate issue.)Due to the lack of commercial success for the film it's very likely that many of those reading this post will have never even heard about the film. If that's you then know that you're missing out. Not everyone seems to get the movie but those that do swear by it, and so do I. The best way to sum up the movie would be this comment from the first page on its Rotten Tomatoes page: There is, after the cloud cover burns off, a tantalizing sense of vitality and life.