Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What makes a movie watchable?

I was going to title this blog post "What makes a movie bad?", but thinking about that has guided me in another direction.

I watched "One for the Money" a few nights ago, the mystery-rom-com starring Katherine Heigl as a down-on-her-luck woman who takes up as a bounty hunter to make money. The movie is bad. Worse, it's boring. The performances are boring. The plot is boring and predictable. The movie is full of boring shots. The entire world of the film is premised on reprehensible gender politics, which, apart from being disgusting, help turn the characters to cardboard men and women.

"One for the Money" is one of the few movies I've ever watched that I wished I hadn't watched, and that realization got me thinking: so many movies are silly, or "bad," or premised on reprehensible gender politics. But I'm rarely sorry to have watched a film. Not only did "One for the Money" fail to be good, it failed to be watchable.

So, what's the difference? At least in the case of "One for the Money," the movie's greatest failing, and what makes it unwatchable, is that there's no imagination. No one had a Big Idea About Film that they tried to implement, least of all the director, who seems to coax the least interesting performances possible out of her actors. It didn't have to be this way. The film, which seems light-hearted and happy despite it's horrific subject matter, might have benefited from the same insanity and grit that elevated "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans." Or it could have gone the other way, and reveled in joyful, easy violence and nihilism like countless other action films.

I could go on to talk about why "One for the Money" is really gross when it comes to gender, but it's not worth it. I would rather spend my time talking about the way "Django Unchained" represents women (not well) than how "One for the Money" posits all men as sexual predators. This is because "Django" has other qualities that aren't bad. I can't say the same for "One for the Money." It's a movie that deserves to be forgotten.

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