Monday, October 10, 2011

Great Expectations: A Plea For Consumer Responsibility

A news story surfaced today about a Michigan woman suing the distributors of the film Drive and the theatre at which she viewed it because of misleading advertising. I found this annoying because, for one, I think Drive is one of the better films made in this century, and two, I don't really remember the trailers being terribly misleading. Perhaps some of the TV spots presented Drive as a bit more of an car-chase film than it was, but that's typical in film marketing these days. She also claimed that the film was racist against the Jewish people and encouraged violence against them, which simply isn't true in the least bit.

My critical opinion of Drive and their marketing tactics notwithstanding, this woman is still 100% wrong. Films have used way more misleading trailers than FilmDistrict did in the case of Drive. This can be annoying, but trailers aren't the only resource we have to figure out which films we want to see.

This idiot is claiming that Drive pulled the bait-and-switch, marketing a film similar to that of The Fast and the Furious series, which I find to be somewhat untrue, but either way - why would you want to go so another film like the neverending Fast and Furious films. You're just clamoring for more stunts and chases? Have you never wanted more from a film. And say they did completely mislead you via their marketing? Say they really tried to dupe you by false advertisement - it's still your responsibility as a consumer and a movie-goer to be more educated.

There are countless websites and online resources that will give you a clear picture of every major film out there. Rotten Tomatoes offers critical and consumer reviews. IMDB features much the same and even greater info about the film. On IMDB, you can also research the filmographies of directors and writers with the click of a button. It's no excuse for anyone to say, "I don't know who Nicolas Winding Refn is, so I had no idea Drive wouldn't be standard Hollywood fare". Do your research, don't go into a film without knowing who directed it and what they're capable of.

In the case of Drive, it's adapted from a goddamn book, so even reading a synopsis of that should have given opponents of the film pause before seeing it.

I feel like Drive has fallen victim - albeit to a much lesser extent - to the same curse of ignorance and stupidity that The Tree of Life did earlier this year. I remember a bunch of giggling girls staring up at the Oriental Theatre's marquee this summer saying, "oh, that's that Brad Pitt movie! I really want to come see that!". Brad Pitt is an actor who appears in the film, much in the same way Ryan Gosling stars in Drive, but neither man directed those films. And with just a few exceptions, both men also tend to pick more unique roles and films to take on anyway. Just because they're handsome, popular, leading men doesn't mean they're going to pander to the populous.

Multitudes of people around the country asked for refunds to The Tree of Life, claiming it was boring or nonsensical, but I bet a lot of those people don't have a clue who Terrence Malick is or what type of work he's done previously. That's their fault. Not the theatre's. Not the distributor's. And certainly not Terrence Malick's.

Film-goers need to be cognizant of/realistic about their level of taste as well. You can't come out of a film like Drive of The Tree of Life crying foul if you're an uncultured person. I'm not trying to be an elitist prick here, but there are obviously different classes of film-viewers, with greatly varying levels of film literacy. It's like someone who doesn't read books throwing down "War and Peace" and saying "this was stupid! It makes no sense! I'm bored!". That's your fault, you shouldn't have picked it up in the first place, or if you did, you should have the perspective to say, "this wasn't for me" because that's fine, not everything is for everyone.

I'm not saying that you have to be smart to like films like the above-mentioned (but it helps), or that if you're film-savvy you will automatically like them, it's just that you have to be more vigilant in choosing the media you ultimately engage with. You can't hate on Drive because you're not patient enough to sit through it or can't appreciate it like a higher-functioning human being can. Just don't see it.

Nobody anywhere should ever be allowed a refund for a movie ticket on the grounds that they didn't like it. I see films I don't like all the time and that's as much a part of being a film-goer as seeing films you love. TS, buyer beware.

And as for claims of being duped by advertising - take that as a sign encouraging greater vigilance. You were "fooled" into seeing a film that wasn't at all like Fast and Furious (oh fucking no!). Too bad, do your research next time, lady. The trailers don't need to change, you do.

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