Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Movies I've Walked Out Of, No. 1 & 2: Eat Pray Love and Damage

Yesterday I walked out of Eat Pray Love , which makes it one of less than a dozen films I've gone to a theater and paid money to see, and then gotten up and left the theater to avoid having to.
(I've turned off or skipped through many more DVDs, but that's a more casual, less intentional relationship.)

Eat Pray Love was an animated amalgamation of Gourmet and Travel magazines. That is, it was boring. It was so boring, it gave me time to dwell on what narcissistic nincompoops Americans can be, believing the world exists to help us work out our relationship issues, intimacy issues, food issues, lack-of-self-esteem issues, etc. and to show us our higher selves.

Julia Roberts's character is struggling with all these issues, and she's facing them by traveling around the world for a year. Not the Peace Corps or anything. This is tourism as therapy. She does not have a boyfriend, for the first time since she was fifteen! Wow! She's, like, choosing celibacy.
Isn't that brave?
She sits eating gelato on a bench in Italy next to a couple nuns in habits also eating gelato. She glances at them and smiles to herself: we're all celibate! Sisters are doing it for themselves!
Isn't that cute?
Then she goes and buys a pair of size 2 jeans instead of size 0 to show her newfound acceptance of her body! Shopping as liberation! YAY!

Really, this movie is more like Eat Prey Love, as it depicts this woman shopping around the world for self-fulfillment.
"Live from your heart," the world says. Thank you world!

The most despicable part comes in the first few minutes:
in the opening voice-over, J. R.'s character tells us about her psychologist friend's work with Cambodian refugees. The friend had been worried about how to help these boat people who'd managed to survive and flee Pol Pot's regime of terror.
But guess what?
The refugees just wanted to talk about their relationship issues too! Turns out dating in refugee camps and on overcrowded boats on the open sea is just as bad as dating in the affluent USA!
I feel so much better now. The Killing Fields had me all worked up... for years! But now I know everyone who wasn't murdered was fine afterward, pesky love troubles aside.

Possible moral? Send relationship counselors to Darfur! Burma! Arizona!

God, I hated this movie.
Anyway, I thought I'd write up a few of the other movies I've walked out on. I'm curious. Will any themes arise?

I'll start with Damage (1992) because the reason I left was incredibly simple:
I couldn't stand to watch Juliette Binoche get her head banged against the floor or wall in simulated throes of passionate illicit abandonment with Jeremy Irons (her future father-in-law) ONE MORE TIME.

The amazing thing about this particular walk-out was that I went to the movie with three other women--two friends and a near stranger from out of town--and we all of us leaned in toward each other at the same time (as Juliette's head was thumping against the floor for the nth time) and whispered, "Do you want to go?"

You may know, it's hard to get people to agree to leave a movie. In fact, that's probably one reason I haven't walked out on more--I haven't wanted to leave my companion. A four-way walk out is quite an achievement.

The theater staff happily gave us our money back, as if they were in cahoots with us, and told us what happens at the end. (Nothing good.)

I had the pleasant experience of being further vindicated all these years later when I just now found Janet Maslin's original NYT review of Damage.

She says:
"It must be noted that the film's sexual episodes are very strange. The staging is so arduous that the actors never appear comfortable or unself-conscious, which would seem to be two prerequisites for making their encounters work. On the simplest level, they often knock into things [Juliette's head especially!], and are forced into painfully awkward postures. One bout finds them seeming to be experiencing simultaneous seizures while attempting a difficult yoga position."

Only Japan chose to emphasize this in their movie poster, which is why I've chosen it (above). Reminds me a bit of the Japanese film In the Realm of the Senses (1976), another movie about uncomfortable sex (to put it mildly), but one I managed to sit through somehow. (I think because I didn't want to offend a friend, whose favorite movie it was.)

But as ridiculous as Damage was, if I had to sit through it or Eat Pray, I'd choose it.

[Other movies I've walked out of.]


momo said...

Another reason not to go to EPL! I saw a preview and knew it would make me gnash my teeth for the reasons you give.
Hmm, I almost never walk out of a movie either.
I did walk out of Liquid Sky (google "heroin aliens movie"). It was just SO BAD and not in a good way.
The movie I had to leave quickly was Day of the Locust. Too horrifying for words.

poodletail said...

I felt the same way about the book. Couldn't finish it.

Clowncar said...

It's not even tourism as therapy. It's book contract as therapy (the contract was before the travel, which makes it even more cynical and creepy: we'll pay you to construct an epiphany).

Reminds me of when Jane Seymour said that, to put a little spice into a relationship, fly to Paris. As I was living in a basement in Queens, I was not amused.

I walked out on Beastmaster. I think that's it.

Margaret said...

I'm guessing EPL made Oprah's book list?

A Million Little Pieces - also on Oprah's list - I threw across the room. The literal book-throw is equivalent to the movie-walkout, I think.
The only other book I've thrown is Twilight. I came close to throwing The Merchant of Venice because of the ending.

Damage sounds damaged. I sat through I Am Love with someone I barely knew a couple weeks ago - that was uncomfortable. When it comes to film, I'm with Nabokov: "Let's skip sex."
It's so easily indicated anyway.

Manfred Allseasons said...

Only one, Southern Comfort, which made me feel quite ill for some reason. I've fallen asleep in a few though.....

Emma J said...

I knew there was a reason I broke out in hives whenever I reached for this book - the front cover itself kind of gave it away and the idea that eating/loving/praying were each single nation monopolies.

SarahJane said...

Such a great post - glad I'll be missing this movie. I also thought PREY might be the apt choice here. So dumb.

Fresca said...

MOMO: You were wiser than I, to know this was a movie to skip. I'd actually saved it for a hot day, as it's another long one.
Luckily I snuck into "Dinner with Schmucks" instead, which made me laugh, so all was well and I got my a/c after all.

Never saw "Liquid Sky" or "Day of the Locust"...

POODLE: See, I should have known, because I couldn't get past the first page of the book either!

CLOWN: Oh, she had a book contract? The movie didn't make that clear. Maybe it just seemed too mercenary and they dropped it.

Jane Seymour? Henry VIII's wife?

Never saw "Beastmaster".

MRRET: The only book I've thrown across the room is "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues." Can't quite remember why now, just that I felt ripped off and lied to.
Nabokov's "Let's skip sex" is so funny. Mostly it's boring on film--that's why my "movie kisses" series is so slim.

MANFRED: You're back! Missed you.
Had to look up "Southern Comfort"--sounds like "Deliverance" (a really good book! but I never saw the movie);
whoever wrote the Wikipedia entry said it was inspired by Xenophon's Anabasis, which I have fond memories of translating out of Greek...

I've never falled asleep in a movie.

EMMA: Good point--labeling each country should have warned me off. I just thought, "How bad can this be? Javier Bardem is in it.
But as it turned out, I couldn't even hold out until he appeared.

SARAH JANE: Heh. Glad you thought of "prey" too.

Rudyinparis said...

You know what I hated about Damage? It was how Juliet Binoche, possibly the most beautiful, sexy woman EVER just as her plain ol' self, was dressed up like some freakish sexbot. I mean, it was about as subtle as trains shooting through tunnels. There's hapless Martin (was that the son's name?) all clean scrubbed and oxford-shirtish with his head-to-toe skintight black leather wearing girlfriend... I mean, OF COURSE the Jeremy Irons character was mesmerized by her Hypnotic Sexuality. Here's an idea, show normal looking people that possess unbelievably strong sexual magnetism. They do exist. For heaven's sake. I mean, really.

Rudyinparis said...

Oh, and EPL? To be fair, I haven't read the book, but it's always seem retch-worthy to me and the movie! Gak! Yet another in an endless line about a gorgeous woman who's supposed to be plain or whatever who finds out she's happy without a man and then ends up with one in order to supply a happy ending. WTF?

Fresca said...

RUDY: Yeah, it's ridiculous... There's no mystery about why someone would be obsessed with Ms Binoche.

And yeah again, people who have it both ways are not exactly the best spokespeople for happily doing without.

Beetle said...

RE: Eat, Pray, Love. Haven't seen the film but the book was pretty awful, too. I did manage to get to the end, however. Still, I found it incredibly conceited. Strange because I loved "The Last American Man", also by Elizabeth Gilbert. I guess she's a lot better when she's NOT writing about herself!