I’m not afraid to admit that I sometimes get confused. This is not a factor of getting older. I got confused when I was younger too. In the Sixties, I did not understand how Robert Wagner could segue so easily from being mayor of New York to starring in It Takes A Thief on television. I did not understand if “Franco-American relations” referred to relations between France and the U.S., between Spain’s Francisco Franco and the U.S., or charges of nepotism at the factory where they made Spaghetti-O’s.
Unfortunately, my confusion continues to blossom, especially when it comes to movies. I look at a movie title and expect a certain story in a certain place. That’s happening less and less frequently. I fear that it is a blatant perpetuation of confusion on the part of Hollywood. Consider these examples:
The city of Fargo is in North Dakota, but most of the movie Fargo takes place in Minnesota.
The title role in The Limey is played by Terence Stamp, a wonderful British actor. It does not take place in England, however. It takes place in Los Angeles.
The story of a Chinese ballet dancer that defects, Mao’s Last Dancer, partially takes place in China, but the majority of it takes place in, of all places, Houston.
David fought Goliath in Elah, somewhere in the current state of Israel. The movie In The Valley of Elah is about a father trying to figure out what happened to his son during the war in Iraq. It takes place entirely in Arizona – a rare triple confusion.
Being misled doesn’t always preclude me from enjoying the movie, but it does take me a while to figure out what’s going on.
Movies titles aren’t the only things I find misleading. Sometimes it’s the movies themselves. You know the saying, the book was better than the movie? That’s the kind of idea that motivates me to go out and read the book for a presumably richer experience. It does not always happen.
Ask anyone who’s read Stephen King’s novella, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption and then seen the movie The Shawshank Redemption. The former was a rather pedestrian story, only made memorable by its twist at the end. But when writer-director Frank Darabont made the movie, he fleshed it out with wonderful subplots until it became a much more compelling story.
More recently, I’ve been sucked into the Atlantic City-based HBO series, Boardwalk Empire, so much so that when I saw it was based on a book, I had to read it. Let’s just say that the resemblance between Boardwalk Empire, the series, and Boardwalk Empire, the book, is about the same as the resemblance between playing Monopoly and actually walking around Atlantic City. The book is essentially a history of the city, from its earliest founding to creation of the super-casinos. Only a few of the chapters relate to Nucky Thompson, whom Steve Buscemi plays in the series, and neither have a scintilla of the depth with which the series portrays him.
Similarly, I very much enjoyed the HBO movie Game Change, about the ups and downs of Sarah Palin’s vice-presidential campaign of 2008. It was re-run recently to coincide with the 2012 campaign, and I noticed that it, too, had been based on a book. Game Change, the book, however, was actually about the entire 2008 campaign, and had almost as few chapters on Palin’s peccadilloes as Boardwalk Empire had on Nucky Thompson. In fact, there were scenes in the movie that weren’t even in the book. I loved reading Game Change, but I still want to read the book the movie was based on.
Fortunately, I have figured out how to avoid this situation in the future. It would be too drastic to stop watching movies, so I’ve decided to stop watching the credits.