Seeing as I live in the terrible abscess of culture and art that is Central New Jersey, I don’t often get the chance to do simple things like go to museums, take DJ classes, or go to the movies. (There are plenty of opportunities for having deep metaphysical conversations with trees, so if you’re into that you should come hang out with me in my woods.) The closest movie theaters are about 45 minutes away if you drive the speed limit or an hour away if you spent a considerable amount of time living abroad and are now afraid of automobiles. (Everything just moves so fast now!)
My other impediment to spending my evenings in front of a large screen and surrounded by thick necks slurping down sugary drinks is purely financial. I have a bank account that causes me to cry every time I see it. Sometimes they are tears of absurdist laughter and sometimes they are tears of depression, but, regardless, I take it as a sign my body is willfully rejecting the fact that I am a poor, poor man.
So, it’s a little shocking that I just came back from seeing my second film in a theater within eight days. My friend Al and I saw Noah in a multiplex last week. A mostly empty theater, but still full enough for my friend and I to get an assortment of dirty looks because we spent two hours laughing uproariously at a film that (I’m pretty sure) is not supposed to be a comedy. Hey, what do we know though, right? We just kind of think a Russell Crowe who endorses familial murder-suicides is a pretty funny concept.
But anyway, I was hanging out with two of my college buddies this past weekend in the lovely upper-middle class small town of Montclair, New Jersey, a place equally well-known for being where Stephen Colbert sleeps and where Dominick Grillo (also known as the person writing this editorial) has enjoyed some of the greatest Halo 2 victories of all time. Pretty Boy, False God, and I wandered around town and found ourselves inside the local indie movie theater in the early evening. And, yes, my friends really do have nicknames such as “Pretty Boy” and “False God,” and, no, the names have nothing to do with Halo 2. We’re just your normal group of mid-20s males who take pride in having a collection of absurd nicknames.
Now, I have very important criteria for watching my films. They are the kind of rules that make me a terrible film watching companion for most people and are generally the reason why I watch my movies alone. First of all, I’m not going to waste my time or money on anything I’m not already confident I will enjoy. Based mostly on the subjective ratings various critics give a movie, I’ll decide if a film will be worth my time watching. And that’s it. I don’t want to hear anything about the film prior to my experiencing it for the first time, and I definitely don’t want to have any discussion while the film is playing. (Laughing like a maniac at Russell Crowe is totally acceptable, though.)
I had heard about the Tom-Hardy-In-A-Car thriller Locke through some random perusal of a film site, and excitedly told my friends about a movie that entirely takes place during a single car ride. I didn’t know anything about the film, really, and I actually backtracked from that statement saying something like, “Oh, don’t worry. I’m sure there will be flashbacks and other things and won’t really be entirely inside a car.”
There are no flashbacks, and, yes, nearly every moment of the film does take place in the driver’s seat as we watch Tom Hardy’s magnificent beard jiggle perfectly between moments of anger, sadness, and light humor. It’s experimental, it’s taxing on the audience, and, yes, it’s awesome.
Montclair’s excellent indie theater has smaller screens and viewing rooms than your local multiplex, but I was still impressed that nearly half of the seats were full to watch a film that really, for all intents and purposes, should not work. In most movies, the “phone-call” scenes are among the very worst. It just isn’t cinematically interesting to watch someone blabber on a phone in order to move the plot forward. It doesn’t work. It shouldn’t work. But Locke takes that rule and sets fire to it. Locke takes us a wild, bare-bones ride and does the impossible in actually making phone call after phone call interesting.
I looked around the theater and expected to see people grumbling, with arms crossed and a hurried whispered conversation about how “stupid” the film was. But I didn’t see that. Instead, the filmgoers sat entranced by the experiment that was unfolding onscreen. No one ran angrily for the exit after twenty minutes, no one spoke or offered their advice to fix the main character’s onscreen dilemmas, and no one answered their phone with a comment about watching a “shitty boring movie” – all of which I have witnessed in the past while watching big budget Hollywood tent-poles at the multiplex.
How heartening it is to be in a place where the audience expects and even seeks out experimental film! And as we were leaving, one young bespectacled usher asked me for my opinion. My response was simple. “Are you interested in film?” I asked him. “Sure!” he replied enthusiastically. “Then you’re gonna love it. It was excellent.” I said with a smile.
Unfortunately, my friends, and in particular Mr. False God himself, are not as interested in experimental indie films as the rest of Montclair’s artistic community and myself. I could practically feel the heat rising from False God’s head as he quickly realized he had allowed himself to be talked into watching a film about a guy making phone calls during an evening drive. I tried to placate him with the buttery dregs of our popcorn, but it was no use. And even though he did eventually admit Tom Hardy’s acting was “very good,” it wouldn’t surprise me if he isn’t so quick to listen to my opinions on film again.
My apologies, False God.