Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Talking About The Happening

The Happening is one of only two movies I've seen so far this year about which I feel evangelical (the other one was Boarding Gate).

I went into the theater knowing almost nothing about the movie: I had avoided watching the trailers and hadn't read anything about it. I didn't want to get caught up in the continuing anti-Shyamlan backlash (which seems to have been gorwing ever since Unbreakable). I had wanted to recommend the other people see the movie in the same way - going in clean, if you will - but I also wanted to make sure they were on the right wavelength, so I started bringing up Val Lewton and Jacques Tourneur in all my conversations about Shyamalan and the movie. I'm not sure that is "strong" enough, though, so my new suggestion is that people who are watching it make the leap of faith that it is, on its own terms, a complete success. In other words: everything in it is the way it is because that's how it's supposed to be, not because Shyamalan was trying to do something else but failed.

For instance, I don't think Shyamalan was trying to write "realistic" dialogue and somehow screwed up. I don't think he was trying to direct his actors to give gritty, naturalistic performances à la 28 Weeks Later, but couldn't get that across. I don't think he was trying for a thrill-a-minute feel and stumbled into making a movie that was more creepy/dreamy than thrilling/intense.

This isn't to say that because I think it is a success on its own terms, everyone has to like it. Taste and all that is certainly still important: you might not like the way he uses stylized dialogue, you might not respond to the performances, you might think that the creepiness isn't realized as effectively as it could be.


Amanda said...

Awesome. I spent a lot of time trying to find some reviews about the diaglogue in this movie (saw it last night and really enjoyed it), but couldn't find anything beyond "it sucked." Then I thought, "hey...Jonathan will have written something." And so I headed over here and it was the first post.

Hope you're well.

The Derelict said...

Your thoughts on this one are encouraging. I've been generally positive towards MNS, with the exceptions of Lady in the Water (which did have its moments) and The Sixth Sense (I saw it way after the hype died down and figured out what the twist was within five minutes, though it's still very creepy).

After watching the trailers for The Happening, I was PUMPED to see it. Then my family and friends started offering their opinions after seeing it and they ranged from: "It sucked" to "Worst movie he's ever made." ("Worse than Lady in the Water?" "Oh, hell yes!")

So thanks for getting me to want to see it again!

Jon Hastings said...

Amanda - Glad I could be of help! And I am doing well - thanks!!

The D. - I think this one is as good as Unbreakable or Signs. Those movies didn't get great reviews either, but the tide hadn't turned so strongly against MNS yet (i.e. he hadn't made a big commercial flop), so the critics were more generous. (IMO, of course).