My 'Big Fat Bad Movie'
NEW YORK — Before:
"Do you want to?"
"No, not really. But maybe we should."
"Maybe we should."
"It is the most popular independent film of all time, after all."
"That's what the newspapers say."
"And a lot of my friends liked it."
"Maybe I could get a column out of it. Something about how I went in kicking and screaming but was seduced by its winning charm."
"So are we going?"
"I guess. Do you know what you're going to say before you see the movie?"
"What's the point of being a critic if you haven't made up your mind beforehand?"
"Maybe that wasn't the movie everyone was talking about."
"It had a wedding in it. It opened in a Greek restaurant."
"They were laughing. Why were they laughing?"
"They thought it was funny."
"But it wasn't funny."
"Humor's a funny thing."
"No pun intended."
"No pun intended. What works for some people doesn't work for others."
"But everyone in the theater was laughing. At the stale jokes, the weak ethnic stereotyping. You and I were the only ones not laughing."
"You were smiling."
"I was grimacing. There's a difference."
"Maybe while I was getting popcorn and you were in the bathroom, mind control rays came out of the screen and hypnotized everyone to like the movie."
"Maybe you've had a bit too much popcorn. Do you know what's in that movie theater butter?"
"I think it was the dialogue."
"But ... "
"The writing of dialogue is a lost art. To say nothing of the performing of it."
"Well, I'm not ... "
"For example, look at a movie like 'The Philadelphia Story'. Or 'Bringing Up Baby'. Or any movie starring Hepburn and Tracey. Well, maybe not 'Desk Set.'"
"I thought I was the critic?"
"The dialogue snaps. It crackles. It even, dare I say it, pops."
"So are we getting something to eat now?"
"It's not like there isn't great writing out there. Look at 'The Simpsons'! Look at 'Frasier'!"
"Look at the time! I've got to get up early tomorrow."
"Lots of movies and television shows take the easy route, substituting the form of the thing for the thing. Rhythms of laugh lines, instead of actual laughs; the conventions of a love story, instead of characters in love."
"I don't know ..."
"Like our film. Was there ever a leading man less conflicted, more unbelievable, than John Corbett? Or how about the way that Nia Vardalos blossoms from zilch to a 10 in 15 seconds, after a lifetime of humiliation and repression, with hardly a look back?"
"Maybe you're not a romantic."
"That's not romance, however loud the Greek equivalent of a violin plays. It's the shell of romance. It's the heart-shaped box of chocolates without the cream filling and almond centers."
"Maybe you just don't like chick flicks."
"I like good ones. But, it's not just romances. Take 'XXX', for example. A collection of sneers, explosions, and cliches in the form of an action movie."
"But a fun collection, right?"
"And the crime is spreading. Take this column, for instance."
"What about the column?"
"Well, first of all it, it doesn't ring true. This isn't anything like the conversation we had after the movie."
"Well ... "
"And it may look like a dialogue, but it isn't actually one. You haven't said anything of interest or value for half a page."
"I'm a critic. If you want interest or value, you need to pay extra."
"From where I'm standing, I've got all the good lines, and that's what matters. I think I can get a better offer from the Monitor than you can."
"But you don't actually exist!"
"That just adds to my charm."
Jeremy Dauber teaches Yiddish Literature at Columbia University. He is a playwright, theater director, and screenwriter.