While the holidays mean reading lots of books and writing and relaxing, I also try to fit in some movie viewing. Unfortunately, these holidays the cinemas are crowded with not-so-good children's movies (sorry, I have no desire to see Horton Hears a Who although I might give the Spiderwyck Chronicles a go) so I need to look further afield for entertainment. I watched Margot at the Wedding. I give myself four stars for lasting the distance. The movie gets zero. this was one of those movies where you keep watching because you just can't believe - a) it's as bad as you suspect it is, b) you keep hoping it will improve, c) you keep looking for something good in it, and then have to give up.
Who paid all that money to make this movie? I'm a fan of the dysfunctional family story - I loved Little Miss Sunshine. That movie had a great cast of characters and a story with a goal and destination. Margot has two characters - sisters - who spend the whole movie trying to be nice to each other and failing to even be successfully crazy or bitchy or vindictive, or in fact any emotion that might transmit itself to the audience. Nobody in this story (sorry, scratch the word story because there isn't one) has a relationship with anyone else that comes close to interesting. It's a sad day when I realise the only character I kind of liked was the one played by Jack Black (who I don't like).
I checked out some reviews on Rotten Tomatoes to see if it was just me - they were mixed, but most people agreed that there was little plot, a lot of depressing misery and none of the characters sparked enough to carry the movie to any kind of decent ending. I think what I hate are movies where all of the characters are just plain stupid, act in stupid ways, fail to make any kind of decisions that create a possible storyline, and aren't funny even when they are supposed to be.
How hard is it to write a story with tension, action, consequences and empathetic characters? Was Margot nuts? Was she having a breakdown? Who knows? Who cares? And the who cares question is the killer. If we don't care about any of the characters in a story, we aren't going to watch it or read it. This is something we teach our students from Day One. If you are going to create a character who is unlikeable, there had better be other great things going on in the story to hook the reader in. Is it unfair to compare Margot at the Wedding to Little Miss Sunshine? I don't think so. That's what we do as readers and viewers - we pay our money and we get to judge whether it was worth it or not!