Last night I had what can only be described as a Masterton experience. I went to the movies at the Regent 3, and for the first time in my life found myself sitting alone in the cinema. It was such a novelty I had to ring my wife and tell her. (Well, it wasn’t as if my phone call was going to disturb anyone.)A few minutes before the movie started, my solitude was disturbed by the arrival of another patron. This again was pure Masterton, because I knew him; he was a well-known local journalist.
We laughed at the oddity of the situation, but Alistair said it wasn’t the first time this had happened to him. On previous occasions, finding himself alone, he’d shouted out to the projectionist to skip the advertisements. That’s pretty Masterton, too.Alistair sat down towards the front and the movie rolled (or whatever movies do in the digital era). It soon became apparent why there were only two of us. The rest of Masterton knew something we didn’t. Gambit was a stinker of a film.
I was half-prepared for this, because I’d read highly critical reviews as well as laudatory ones. In the latest Listener, Helene Wong gives Gambit only two stars. But I desperately wanted to like it because the screenplay was written by the Coen brothers – the same team responsible for Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou? and other gems. The Coens, I persuaded myself, are incapable of producing a dud. Perhaps the critics just didn’t get the joke.Besides, there was a classy cast: Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz, Alan Rickman, Tom Courtenay and Stanley Tucci. How could it fail?
Alas, it was irredeemably rotten from start to finish. There were traces of the familiar Coen Brothers formula, which often involves bumbling amateur criminals hatching audacious plots that go hilariously, gruesomely wrong. But in this case (spoiler alert!) they pull it off. Perhaps that’s why the movie doesn’t work; it lacks that essential Coen Brothers blackness.Whatever the explanation, Gambit never raised so much as a snigger from the audience of two at the Regent 3. Alistair gave up and left about 20 minutes from the end. I persisted to the last – partly because I was transfixed by its sheer awfulness but also, I think, because I was hoping against hope that it might redeem itself in the last moments. You never know with a Coen Brothers script.
Well, it didn’t. It ended as flatly and predictably as it had unfolded. As the credits rolled, I felt the situation called for a Statler and Waldorf comment, but Waldorf had left the building.