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September 20, 2010


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That Fuzzy Bastard

Ahhhh, ain't that the truth! "Plausibility" (or "bullshit") is a cudgel we whip out when we dislike a movie, but rarely an actual reason to dislike a movie.

Stephen Whitty

The only time "implausibility" bothers me in an onscreen romantic relationship is when it's really just a disguise for ego -- all these star-driven vehicles where we're supposed to believe that, oh no, of COURSE that incredibly lovely and intelligent young woman is going to fall for a 70-year-old comic/75-year-old-action-star/triple-chinned slacker. Who WOULDN'T?

But implausibility in offscreen relationships? In which even a cranky critic can find someone to love? I'm grateful for that kind of far-fetched idea daily...


The main "plausibilty" problem with 'Notting Hill' is that it ethnically whitewashes what is in fact an area of London with a long and strong Afro-Caribbean association.

Matthias Galvin

As I've never seen a picture of YLW, I like to imagine Nick & Nora in these sorts of things. And when I do, I tend to either forget or stop caring about what they're talking about, and just enjoy the wonderful couple-specific banter that married people can have.

A different Brian


Tom Russell

That was really very sweet, Glenn; it brightened up my morning considerably. Thank you very much for sharing it.


I've been reading the book (and why it's taken me so long is something between me and my creator) and my problem isn't that she'd fall for MacRay, but that MacRay would pursue her in the first place. It's a pretty dumb thing for a guy like him to do.

But this hasn't impeded my enjoyment of the book at all, really. Initially, a little bit, but the implausibles have played out with a lot of tension and even logic, so why bitch?

Jeff McMahon

I'd say that anything that takes you out of a movie is a reason to complain about it. The question then becomes, was that something an irritant specifically for you (as most of Wells' are) or something deeply ingrained within the film that the filmmakers should have known better to include.

Glenn Kenny

@ Jeff: Point taken. And with a picture as setting-specific as "The Town," those Bostonians who are so inclined will likely discover a lot of nits. On the other hand, there is the willing refusal to suspend disbelief at work with a lot of the complaints you see in certain venues. And for all that, it's more legit to complain about what's taken you out of the completed movie than to bitch about how many takes somebody told you a director made his actors go through, which is such TOTAL bullshit that my wife and I never disagree on it...

Tom Russell

"...it's more legit to complain about what's taken you out of the completed movie than to bitch about how many takes somebody told you a director made his actors go through, which is such TOTAL bullshit that my wife and I never disagree on it..."

Whoa, twitter crossover. :-D


The main suspension of disbelief issue in Notting Hill was Anna Scott's excessively thin-skinned reaction to tabloid headlines about her love life, around which crucial plot points turn. Given how long Anna has been famous, she would be inured to foolish tabloid stories - it would be near-impossible for her to function at her level of fame otherwise. The romance itself was fine.

Aside from the wince-making "I'm just a girl" speech, it's quite a nice movie, and if you're looking for true perniciousness and unbelievability you have only to look to Love Actually, or Curtis Unchained.


I tend to think a film is allowed one major conceit (a man has superpowers, etc.), but after that the conceit police come out - especially if the authors have written themselves into a hole and change the rules to dig themselves out. But the conceit can be questioned if it becomes too easy to imagine the better movie and/or what the conceit says about its makers. The conceit of Pretty Woman is that a rich businessman falls in love with a hooker (with a heart Glenn Beck could hawk). My problem isn't the meet cute, it's the story they tell out of it.

Claire K.

I don't remember calling you "Sport."

Tom Carson

Doesn't it make a difference whether plausibility is a movie's major concern/selling point in the first place? I never get worked up about it in genre pieces -- romances, crime flicks, whatever -- unless something happens that violates the rules of the movie's world, not the one we live in. And people who have "plausibility" issues with INCEPTION, say, just mystify me.

On the other hand, I can go on about the inaccuracies, short cuts and misrepresentations in the sainted SAVING PRIVATE RYAN -- a movie ostentatiously claiming to show us How It Really Was -- until the cows come home. At times, this has reduced anyone in the vicinity to imitating mooing.

Glenn Kenny

@ Claire K: Poetic license, dear. And perhaps an implied suggestion that you call me "Sport." Although why I would suggest such a thing is beyond me. Might as well ask you to call me "Butch" or something. THAT doesn't make sense...in fact it's downright implausible...

Okay, I'm officially procrastinating now...

Claire K.

How about "Champ"? Or "Boy-o"?

That Fuzzy Bastard

Is it plausible that a film critic would be addressed as "Champ"?

Aaron Aradillas

I would wager it all depends on what kind of "Sport" you are. The obvious association is Harvey Keitel in TAXI DRIVER. I'm certain that wasn't the kind of "Sport" you were thinking of.

I'd like to think of the John Glover's Alan Raimy used the name in 52 PICK-UP. Raimy's "That's mighty white of you" line is one I use at random quite often. Usually no one has a clue what I'm talking about.

Glenn Kenny

Well, Fuzzster, my self-esteem these days is even more obnoxiously off the hook than it's been in a while, which is saying something. (Sample exchange from NYFF screening: Some Dude GK Met At A Party Back In June: "How have the past couple of months been for you?" GK: "Awful! But I LOOK GREAT!") And you know, I may not be a film critic forever!

Jeff McMahon

I've read that 'every story can have one fantasy premise and no more to be successful' line before from some famous filmmaker or critic - does anyone know who?

I agree with Tom Carson's point earlier - each movie has, shall we say, a tone or pitch of 'realism' that it's attempting to operate under, which allows the filmmakers more or fewer degrees of latitude in how much disbelief the audience can suspend. With Cloverfield, I didn't have a problem with the basic concept, 'a monster attacks NYC and it's recorded on a video camera', I had a problem with the disconnect between the video verite premise and the utterly retarded, boneheaded, only-in-a-movie things the characters were doing. But I don't have a problem when the same things happen in, say, Scary Movie.

Jeff McMahon

Oh, and another movie that had the 'too many premises' issue for me was Hancock, where we first got used to the 'real-life superhero' concept, and then they tossed in a really strained 'origin' story.

On the other hand, to somebody like myself who's not aware of the many inaccuracies and misrepresentations in Saving Private Ryan, I still have no problem enjoying that movie and calling it one of Spielberg's best. Ignorance is bliss, maybe?

Castle Bravo

"I've read that 'every story can have one fantasy premise and no more to be successful' line before from some famous filmmaker or critic - does anyone know who?"

Must've been De Sica...


TLW is a good'er. You'd be well advised to keep her, even if she doesn't take Geritol.

Oliver C, Curtis mentions the melanin-deficient portrayal of Notting Hill in the commentary of "Love, Actually."

He says this DJ approached him and complimented him on the special effects in NH. What special effects? That you made a movie in Notting Hill with no black people in it.

Curtis said touché and cast him as the wedding DJ in "Love, Actually."


I thought "sport" was often used as a dismissive term towards short people.

Also, Jeff, I'm not sure that one has to be very informed about WWII to see how awful that flag-waving, weepy bookend in SPR is, or how one-note the characters are throughout the film.

The Siren

All romance is implausible. That's the beauty of it. Your sweet-souled better half understands this very well.

Michael Adams

The sad souls over to Wells' bullshit emporium would probably complain about Bogart and Bergman, Bogart and Bacall, Bogart and Audrey Hepburn (well, maybe that one's a tad implausible), but as a card-carrying romantic I rarely have such problems. I found the romance in The Town perfectly appropriate and the film a bracingly professional job of filmmaking, especially the Fenway shootout. My Better Half, not previously a fan of Ben or Becky, teared up at the tend.

Aaron Aradillas

Glenn, it looks like you might have to start a thread on how Spielberg's SAVING PRIVATE RYAN is a piece of shit. Maybe time it to the upcoming Blu-ray Criterion release of THE THIN RED LINE. You know how much I love it when film criticism gets broken down to my-WWII-movie-masterpiece-is-better-than-your-WWII-masterpiece "discussions."

I'll admit that the framing device of SPR is a little taxing, but the first and last shots of the movie should be enough to let you know what Spielberg is really getting at.

Stephen Whitty

I would agree with you, Aaron, that SPR doesn't deserve much of the abuse heaped upon it -- its portrait of the American GIs seems pretty serious to me, as do Spielberg's intentions -- but I wonder if the complaints about the framing device don't arise from, and aren't often applicable to, Spielberg's work as a whole?

It's always seemed to me, in fact, that MOST of Spielberg's films --Schindler's List, A.I., Munich -- could have ended a scene or two earlier than they did. It's almost as if Spielberg distrusts his own audience, and so insists on repetitively hammering home his point (and providing some sort of resolution)just to make sure everyone "gets" it.

But then I always thought "Jaws" should have ended with Richard Dreyfus six fathoms deep, and Roy Scheider sitting there, alone, on the top of that slowly sinking boat...


I see no reason to expend energy on yet another discussion of 'Saving Private Ryan' given that Willian Goldman has already expressed, on record, what is pretty much my own opinion.

Aaron Aradillas

William Goldman, isn't he the guy who wrote DREAMCATCHER? Take away ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN and you really don't have much to stand on.

BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID is popular but not a really great American film. It seems to coast on charm. (THE STING is the better Redford-Newman showcase.)

MARATHON MAN is good but hardly a great movie. Speaking of plausibility, how come no one ever mentions that the then 40-year-old Dustin Hoffman looked a little old to play a graduate student?

I've always found THE PRINCESS BRIDE to be a tad overrated. Its snarky approach to fairy tales always seemed to undercut the romance of the story.

As for the GOOD WILL HUNTING rumors? I actually think Affleck & Damon are better writers than Goldman.

I remember Goldman's takedown of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN in Premiere Magazine. Even the snot-nosed 20-year-old version of myself thought he was full of shit. All he did was take cheap shots and complain that the wrong guy was at the cemetery. I actively hated those holier-than-thou takedowns of the movies nominated for Best Pciture that Premiere would run.

Glenn, seeing as you don't have anymore loyalty to Premiere, care to shed some light on Golman's contributions to the mag?

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