This is an ongoing struggle that I have with my father, and I’m finally starting to think that it’s not so much the fact that I don’t understand what a good movie is yet, or that my father’s taste in movies is just incredibly specific and a thin line to walk on. It really starts to look like the problem is that we’re not speaking the same language. “This is a really good movie” doesn’t mean the same thing to me – a 22 year old college graduate – and him – a 52 year old former disc jockey and current youth worker for the Church.
Every time my father and I see a movie, we have a tendency to debrief on it afterward. Either over coffee or dinner, it’s a tradition we started with the theatre of the stage – we both love the art, so we want to intellectually discuss what we’ve just seen. So most of his first critiques have to do with the script, the plot, the believability of the characters, etc. And for some reason, much of that glosses right by me in a movie.
It’s odd. In a play, if a character is unbelievable, I’m immediately thrown mentally out of the plot of the play, and can’t really focus on what they’re trying to tell me. But for movies, it doesn’t appear to be quite that way. Take a movie my father just watched for example: Boondock Saints. I had originally been a little skeptical of this movie (given that somewhere in my brain I had given it an entirely incorrect plot) but quickly fell in love with the characters and what they were doing. Did the constant cursing bother me? Probably – but as it’s generally for either comic effect or for the ambiance of the characters, I let it slide. Do I actually think that people should be going around and killing bad guys just because they’ve taken it into their minds that they’re God’s vigilantes? Certainly not. But that doesn’t keep me from thinking it’s an awesome movie. The stylized fighting scenes are fun to watch, it’s an interesting concept, and it’s got a catchphrase line that I’m determined to learn. I went in looking for an entertaining action movie, and I got that in spades. To me, it’s a good movie.
Now on the other hand, my father just wrote a review on HIS blog about Boondock Saints, and has a very different opinion on the matter. As I go back and look at it, we agree on more than I initially thought, but it still serves to my point. He comments that the two leads, played by Sean Patrick Flannery and Norman Reedus, and Willem DaFoe’s Detective Smecker are excellent performances otherwise wasted in a story-less movie. He comments on the dialogue being “uneven” and that you “don’t get to investigate the characters.” I don’t agree with this – or perhaps, I never saw this. I didn’t get a chance to re-watch the whole movie with him (I went somewhere for dinner that night and only saw up until the iconic hotel scene), so maybe I missed something my first time through, Maybe also I see more of the characters and who they are because I’ve watched All Saints Day, which does go a little more into who they are. But I think I know as much of the characters as I really need to know. As someone who wrote her senior thesis on character development in stories, I rather think that I would notice if a character was poorly developed – and neither Connor or Murphy read that way to me. Maybe I’ve missed something – I’ll have to watch it again. And as for the dialogue, I never noticed it being uneven. Granted, all of my own writing has a tendency to read like it’s written for teenagers so perhaps I’m not the best judge.
And then there’s the lack of story issue. This is something Dad and I have debated in regards to a few movies lately. I don’t necessarily look for story in my action movies. In the debate I’ve had in regards to Iron Man 2, I think I summed it up well: “I watch Iron Man to see Robert Downey Jr. being sexy and blowing sh!t up. And there was plenty of that in that movie.” Having compelling stories in an action movie is excellent – but to my eyes, not entirely necessary. The story of Boondock Saints, to me, is the story of the two brothers that have decided to take the law into their own hands and rid the world around them of the intense evil that they see. That’s all I need. The rest is all slow motion fighting and CSI-style crime scene re-enactment. We do get the back story with their father, and the ongoing climb from bad guy to bigger bad guy, and I like those. They keep me interested, and seeing that it’s not just random bad guys. It has just enough to keep me interested and not wondering what the point is.
But here’s what it comes down to – my father sees these deficiencies as taking away the “good movie” title, and I don’t. Is it that we’ve come in looking for two different things? Is it that we simply define “good” differently? Maybe it’s a little of both. Maybe it’s that “generation gap” people keep talking about. Who really knows? In the end, I know my father and I will split paths on the topic of Boondock Saints, and I probably won’t be able to convince him to watch the second one with me. That’s fine. We’ve agreed to disagree on plenty of other things before. This one just happened to give me something to think about.