It’s All About the Story

By postbear from Flickr Creative Commons

By postbear from Flickr Creative Commons

One of my goals this year is to watch more movies. I’m doing this for a few reasons. First, the obvious, movies are fun to watch. Second, movies really help me think about my writing in a different way. Not just visually but also with pacing and tension. When I read a book I can skim if I want to (so I may not notice the slower parts) but if I’m watching a movie I can’t (or won’t) and so I’ll notice every boring or slow second.

Anyway, I digress from the point of why I’m writing this post.  Why am I writing this post? First, to let you know that if you want to, you can follow along with my movie viewing year. I’m posting the movies I watch on my Pinterest board 2014: My Year in Movies. (I’m also posting about the books I read, 2014: My Year in Books).

Second, I want to write about how sometimes I get an even bigger lesson from the movies I watch. Like with American Hustle. I went in wanting to love this movie (I didn’t). Why? Mostly because I really thought the script fell flat. In fact, I wrote to a friend of mine (who saw the movie the day before I did) and told her I was disappointed, really disappointed, in the movie. So imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning and found out that last night American Hustle won the Golden Globe award for best comedy.

This is not a movie review.

I am most definitely not a movie reviewer. I can guarantee if I were a movie reviewer, though, I would not be part of the 93% of positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. But isn’t it rather telling that on the Rotten Tomatoes website itself, the movie’s description says this:

Riotously funny and impeccably cast, American Hustle compensates for its flaws with unbridled energy and some of David O. Russell’s most irrepressibly vibrant direction.

Compensates for its flaws? Riotously funny?

First let me say that if a movie has to compensate for flaws, I don’t think it should be a Golden Globe winner. The flaws should be overlooked enough that they shouldn’t even be mentioned. Second, if this movie is riotously funny then I’m the Queen of England (I’m not). In fact, I laughed more then anyone else in the theater (only, maybe, 6 times in the entire movie) and MEH (My Engineer Husband) who usually loves these kind of over-the-top absurdist movies (I don’t) turned to me at one point and said: “Wasn’t this supposed to be a comedy?” I was embarrassed that I laughed when I did—was there something wrong with me? That’s what I wondered. (NO ONE ELSE WAS LAUGHING… okay, we live in Maine, we’re not known for our culture, but we do laugh…sometimes…)

And I thought the script dragged. Yes, I’ll say it. I’m sorry David O. Russell. I sincerely hope that the story lost tension and pacing on the cutting room floor, but it dragged. And it was boring. No amount of Bradley Cooper (who I thought was fabulous) or Jennifer Lawrence (who played a convincing part) or a chubby Christian Bale with a bad comb-over (not my fave) or even Jeremy Renner (who was my fave) or a zillion plunging necklines or even an amazing soundtrack can compensate. 

But no, Julia, tell us what you really think.

Okay. I’ll digress back to why I’m writing this post. (This post really isn’t a review. And it’s not in any way meant to discourage you from seeing American Hustle; you’ll probably like it—on Rotten Tomatoes it got an 80% audience approval rating.)

It’s just this simple. I’m glad I watched American Hustle because it reminded me of something important. The point is to write a good story. And that can’t be compensated for by anything. Period. It’s all about the story. That’s what I learned from watching this movie.

And that is all.



What have you learned from watching movies? Have you ever seen a movie and thought you should love it (because everyone else did)?