Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Damned if you do . . .

I am so schizophrenic when it comes to my opinions about films based on real people or events.  They're almost always a frustrating experience for me. 

Stories about real events don't normally fit into a nice "three act" structure.  So, I will often criticize bio-pics for being "uneven" or not coming to nice and neat conclusions.  Even movies that I realize are technically great (that is, made with great cinematographic, directorial, and acting skill), I just cannot get fully behind.  Raging Bull is normally my classic example.  While the acting in that movie was fantastic and look and feel (direction and cinematography) were perfect, I just didn't find Jake LaMotta that interesting of a subject.  I felt that the movie meandered between highs and low, much like real life.  But I just didn't find it an interesting story, which, for me, is the most important part of a movie.

On the other, just last night I watched Finding Neverland, the bio-pic about J.M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan.  This was a wonderful little film about innocence and creativity, which used real events to tell a story.  Except, for the sake of the story, some pretty important events were changed.  Most notably, in the movie Barrie became enthralled with a widow and her children. But in real life, the woman wasn't a widow.  This changes the real Barrie's actions from charitable to kind of creepy.  But, that wouldn't have made as good a story.  Even though I understand this, I still can't help but criticize the movie for altering facts, which detracts from my enjoyment of it.

So a story about real life is uneven, and real life manipulated to tell a story is untruthful.  I know that there is a line in between the two which can be walked, and many movies have done so successfully.  But one step to either side of the line will always frustrate me.


Blogger BigX said...

"there is a line in between the two which can be walked"

...any movie in particular you are refering to? One about a line and the act of walking perhaps?

I agree with you on this point, although I have to say that I usually extend it to period pieces as well. Although, bio pics are often more blatent about such inaccuracy. Another fine example of this is the movie Blow. Not a bad movie really, but it bended so many facts that it was hardly the same story. I suggest reading the book that the movie was 'based' on, which was written by an investigative reporter and is very well done. One such tidbit- remember how in the movie his girlfriend got all cancered up or something so he jumped bail to be with her? Reality check- he had a LOT of girlfriends, noene with cancer, and he jumped bail because he didn't want to go to jail... However, we had to make the stupid audience like the guy. It's as if a lot of people out there feel that we, the stupid movie going public can only like a character that isn't a prick most of the time. To them I say, go see Al Swearengen...see what he has to say about that.

Really this phenom seems to be the closely related opposite of another pet peeve of mine in films nowadays. It happens all the time- It seems like if the established protaginist is going to have to screw over another character at some point, they need to paint that character as an asshole. This happens SO much in romantic comedies... hmm...our main character is going to end up with this girl, but the girl is in a relationship...I know! Let's have the guy cheat on her, and that way people won't have mixed emotions about the main character stealing his chick! This happens so damn about NOT making the other guy an asshole, and have the additional emotional weight of breaking an innocent persons heart? House did a good job with this, but it is rare that they just wont make the guy a dick. Anyway, I digress... bottom line, the people in charge of this crap think the people they are making it for are idiots, yet for some reason never even consider that they might be idiots as well.

5/24/2006 09:42:00 PM  
Blogger wiley said...

I was not refering to Walk the Line. That falls under the first category for me, a well-made movie with fantastic performances by Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, but even though I like Johnny Cash, the story was uneven.

To me, Apollo 13 is a great example of a movie that tells a very compelling story while maintaining a reasonable historical accuracy.

Also, on the other matter, about a love triangle where the 'other guy' was a good person, maybe even better than the 'hero'. They did make a movie like that once. It was called Casablanca. I guess no one much liked it . . .

5/24/2006 11:04:00 PM  

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