I don’t generally go see movies I’m not going to like. With the right combination of reviews, IMDB ratings (adjusted for member biases), and knowledge of who made it and who’s in it, I know pretty well what I’m in for.
Every now and again, I’m sort-of corralled into seeing a movie or take a calculated risk that something won’t be as awful as my instincts are telling me. (I’m usually wrong on the latter.)
Attitudes and expectations count for a whole lot, I’ve discovered. A so-so movie with low expectations can be a pleasant surprise, whereas were the same movie hyped, or deceptively advertised, it will be a disappointment. And I’m not talking so much about myself here, but the people I see walking out of theaters pissed. (Although I will relate one incident momentarily.)
I’m not going to a Mulberry Street (or any horror film, for that matter) with high expectations. I like a good horror atmosphere, and Mulberry did that, so I was pleased to that extent.
The worst films I see, then, are highly pedigreed. Written by a bestselling author, say, and directed by an Oscar winning director (of a movie I very much liked), and starring a raft of not just stars, but talented actors. To say nothing of the vast, talented pool of well-funded craftsmen backing a film.
So, yeah, two years ago I went to see The Constant Gardener. I loved the director’s previous film, City of God, and you can’t really go wrong with Ralph (Rafe?) Fiennes, Rachel Weisz (well, maybe in those mummy movies), Pete Postlethwait and Bill-freakin’-Nighy.
On top of that, I hate pharmaceutical companies. I’m anti-drug. To the point of stupidity, it’s not unfair to say. But we won’t go into that now.
So, here you have a movie that should be preaching to the choir (me) made by a bunch of highly talented people who clearly know their stuff. And yet this is a godawful film that makes no sense and is downright insulting in its stupidity.
One drug company is poised to make billions off a coming epidemic that’s going to be so pervasive, they won’t be able to keep up with the demand. At the same time, they’re so worried about a few piddling millions, that they’ll kill everyone who finds out…that they’re making a drug that will save billions of lives. Well, no, I guess because they’re testing on Africans and some of the tests went wrong and they’ll have to start over or something….
So, one has to believe that the Big Evil Drug Company first has a special insight into an oncoming plague (though, as far as I know, in my lifetime, none of the predicted plagues has come to pass), one that’s likely to kill (e.g.) a good percentage of the people who work there and their families, that will be so prevalent it would make them billions and they won’t be able to cover everyone anyway, and yet they’re concerned because of a problem in testing–which, I’m not a chemist, but I gotta believe it’s pretty common to have to start over when trying to achieve a specific effect.
On top of that, it’s a paean to Romantic narcissism.
I’ve seen a lot of spy-type thrillers with stupid plots. It’s pretty much de rigeur, and shouldn’t impair one’s enjoyment. But this film cries out to be taken seriously. It has a message. And this message was best stated by the Trey Parker via the puppet Alec Baldwin in Team America:
“Corporations are all…corporation-y.”
Probably the worst part of this film is that it forces you to go back and look at the heartwrenching, excellent City of God and ask: “Well, wait, I’ve never been to the outskirts of Rio De Janeiro….is this movie just a crapfest, too?”
Some day I’ll review Hilary and Jackie, which was the worst movie I’d seen prior to Constant Gardener, in that case, suckered into seeing an overblown, depressing made-for-Lifetime chick flick by the Academy, which presented it as an amusing, light-hearted slice-of-life type film.