Monday, February 23, 2009

Expectations Ruin Movies

One of my most favorite movie-going experiences was when I saw Gattaca in theaters. I walked in never having seen a trailer for the movie nor knowing anything about the characters or plot. I loved being able to watch the movie unfold and not knowing what to expect.

Something similiar happened with Milk. I saw a showing of the biopic before it was released nationwide. I hadn't read a single review or seen a TV trailer. I knew little about it, beyond the fact that it was a movie about gay rights. And, I walked out of the theatre in awe of the movie, of its message, the actors, and even the filming. It was a great film that I still think everyone should see, and I was not suprised in the least when it was nominated for a "Best Picture" Oscar.

Then there's the reverse experience. I heard rave reviews about Slumdog Millionaire for months before I saw it. So, I walked into the theater a couple weeks ago, expecting to be wowed in every respect. I enjoyed the story, but did not fall in love with it. I liked that it was a "biopic," with Jamal's story spliced between gameshow questions but didn't like how I knew that he would win. I liked that Mumbai was its very own character. But some of the dialogue, the length of the movie, and even some of the character development bothered me. Other than the main character, they didn't seem fully developed, least of all the brother who's personality and actions seemed to shift without reason in every other scene.

So, I mainly blame high expectations for ruining the film for me. And, I wasn't the only one. At least four people walked out of the theater and didn't return. One of the guys in my group would have bolted, too, had he not been with us. I'm not saying I didn't like it. I did. But I just didn't love it.

After all the hype around the movie, I expected (ah, there's that word again!) to see Slumdog Millionaire win "Best Picture" in last night's Oscars, but I secretly hoped that Milk would pull through. For an extraordinarily brief moment - when Penn won Best Actor - I thought, Just maybe. But alas, the "underdog" and this year's "fairytale" pulled through yet one more time.

I wished I liked Slumdog Millionaire as much as so many out there, but I think my feelings for the movie were determined the moment I heard everyone I knew raving about it. Nothing - not books, nor movies - are going to live up to the expectations that people espouse. That's why I never read reviews before I go to a movie.

Then again, I love movie previews. I like the way they encapsulate a movie - but also hate when they give too much away. So, I know I'll never get away from having "expectations" for a movie, no matter what I do. But, when you dislike a movie think about why. It may not necessarily be the movie, or even the story itself, but have more to do with what you were expecting to gain from it.

I won't say anything more about Milk. Nor will I say anything more about Slumdog. Go see both for yourself, and somehow try to go in there with less lofty expectations than I did (and if you can figure out how to do this, please let me know.) Then come back, read my old review of Milk, let me know what you think about both films - and, if they lived up to your expectations, whether high or low.


Mrs. Cullen said...

I completellly agree with you. Before I went to see slumdog everyone was raving about it so I had really really high expectations. When I saw it, i liked it but still...nothing too special...

Liz S said...

Mrs. - It's reassuring to hear I'm not the only one who thought so! Thx