Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Seeing is believing

There are some things in life where taking someone else's word on something is good enough. (For instance: "Ohmigod, this milk is rancid! Want to smell it?" "Um, no thanks.") As a critic, I obviously hope my writing is persuasive enough for people to trust me, either when I warn them away from a piece of crap or try to get them to watch some obscure Britcom they would never consider on their own.

But when the foot's on the other hand, I can't always put the same faith in the critics that I hope people put in me. Case in point: "Elizabethtown." I love Cameron Crowe, own most of his movies on DVD, and was excited to see him doing a more personal movie after "Vanilla Sky." But then the reviews started to come in, and they were... not good. It's currently at 29% on the ol' Tomatometer, and even the positive reviews are along the lines of, "Well, it's not the fiasco you've heard about, but..."

So I didn't rush out to see it the first weekend, or the second, but I eventually decided I had to see this one for myself. So since I'd already seen most of last night's TV in advance, I hit the local fiveplex and watched it with three complete strangers, two of whom were just there to make out.

And? This is what I get for not trusting the reviews. It was everything they'd said, unfocused, too long (by the end of the road trip sequence, I felt like I'd just driven to Eau Claire or Beaumont or someplace), a blank for a leading man, a self-indulgent and pointless big speech by Susan Sarandon (complete with tap dancing!) and too much reliance on pop music to convey emotions that the script or actors weren't. There were inspired moments, as there always are with Crowe (the demolition-for-kids video, "Freebird" in the rain and Alec Baldwin, who at this point should probably make five minute cameos at the beginning of every movie), but with the exception of Kirsten Dunst's wacky flight attendant, I didn't get enough of a sense of any of the characters to understand or even feel affection for them. At first, I thought that the eventual DVD deleted scenes might add more meaning, but then I remember all the bad reviews of the version shown at the Toronto Film Festival, which was about 18 minutes longer, so probably not.

Sometimes trusting people's opinions even on the good stuff backfires. I finally caught a CNBC rerun of that "Apprentice" episode with the four-way firing, and it didn't have much impact since I'd been spoiled. Even the shot of the four idiots crammed into the back of the cab wasn't very funny without the surprise factor.

Ah, well. Live and learn. Adapt, adopt and improve. Or something some guy once said. I don't know.

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