In general, I enjoy the theatrical experience. I have some really great stories about seeing movies in theatres that wouldn’t be the same if I’d watched them at home. It doesn’t even matter if the movie is any good or not. I enjoyed seeing The Spirit in a theatre full of people who all understood exactly the kind of bad movie we were getting ourselves into. I enjoyed seeing Nebraska in a theatre full of people who enjoyed it and laughed in all the right places. It is, on the other hand, true that you’ll sometimes see a movie with people who, for example, laugh in all the wrong places.
It’s not that the rock scene in Everything Everywhere All At Once is completely serious. There are jokes in it. There are places where I laughed. On the other hand, I’d argue that it’s the emotional center of the film, and the important bits of the relationship are explored in it. It’s the place in the movie where two characters are able to connect in ways they hadn’t been able to before. If you didn’t understand them before, you can understand them now. It seemed, however, as though the audience where I saw it just thought of it as “ha ha they are rocks.”
It’s always the danger, if you’re seeing a movie with a bunch of people you don’t know. I don’t want to be a snob about it, goodness knows. People are able to get what they want out of a movie, or not, and that’s fine. It’s just that, sometimes, it’s clear that the filmmakers intended you to get something specific. There’s an emotional beat they’re trying for. And either it doesn’t land for everyone—and I’ve been in that group, goodness knows—or else they just don’t seem to see what’s there to land in the first place.
It’s worst when it’s an intentional quiet moment. My mother saw Ferris Bueller’s Day Off with a film class once, and she was the only person who got the point of the moment in the Art Institute. She knew this for sure, because there was a class discussion about it. My mom and I are both big fans of the moment and think it is, again, the emotional center of the movie. But the rest of her class just thought it was a boring quiet moment that dragged down the pace of the film and detracted from the comedy. They’re allowed to believe that, but it was frustrating for my mom that no one was on her side until she talked to me about it.
I can’t help wondering if the people in the theatre with me saw the same movie as I did. I wonder what they’ll be saying to their friends about it. I know that, when I saw Nebraska, the guys behind me had seen it in a more conventional, less arthouse, setting previously with people who’d left it saying, “I thought this was a comedy!” And I suppose it’s likely that the one person in the theatre where I saw The Revenant has been going around ever since complaining about how no one else really got what the film was going for; it’s certainly true that we did not. Still, it’s always better when everyone in the audience is on the same page.