Thursday, May 23, 2013

An audience of two at the Regent 3

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.


Richard McGrath said...

Deja vu... I was one of two customers of the Regent one Tuesday summer afternoon in the late 1990s to watch a far better movie, Enemy at the Gates. Again, the projectionist kindly asked if I wanted to skip the ads.

That said, it's a nice place to catch a movie nowadays.

JC said...

"On previous occasions, finding himself alone, he’d shouted out to the projectionist to skip the advertisements. That’s pretty Masterton, too."

Reminds me of something my father (b circa 1909)
told of the old Taradale theatre in the days of silent movies..

Back then they had a pianist come in to play music to suit the mood of the scene that was playing out, I think her name was Myrtle.

Anyway Mrytle would get caught up in the action on screen and forget to play whereupon the audience would yell out "Myrtle.. wake up!".. and a startled Myrtle would start thrashing the keys again.


Karl du Fresne said...

My grandmother played the piano accompaniment to the silent movies at the theatre in Hawera. It was the family's only steady income after my grandfather went bust. By all accounts Grandma was a formidable woman - I don't think anyone in the audience would have dared shout at her.

Shane Pleasance said...

Myrtle and I would probably leave the auditorium should the audience exceed the two of us.

She has written a special piece for me for the new release Coen Brothers due out next week - "Shane is a man of constant sorrow".

Shane, Invercargill