Why don’t we close the book?

My husband and I have this habit of going to thrift stores or pawn shops and picking up movies. They’re often ones we’ve never seen and never heard anything about. We’re of the mindset that you can go rent a movie for two bucks, watch it once, and if you like or dislike it you’re out two bucks and you never get to (or have to) see it again. But if you buy the thing for two bucks, and you like it, then you own it. If you dislike it, there are a lot of options for getting rid of it. The trash can is one of those many options.

We’ve found a few movies that have needed that option.

The other night we sat down to watch one of these movies we picked up in such a manner, and before the thing even started I said, “So how long do we give it before we quit watching?” He said, “Twenty minutes.”

Agreed. So we’d watch for twenty minutes and if it seemed like it was going to be awful, then we would just turn the thing off.

Well. Twenty minutes later and I looked at him and said, “What do you think?”

He said, “I don’t know. What do you think?”

I said, “It’s kind of weird. But I’m curious what’s going on. Give it another few minutes?”

“Sure.”

So another few minutes passed and the movie just got weirder. And yet…we were curious what was going on. It got weirder. And weirder. AND WEIRDER. By the time we were twenty minutes from the end we were both so freaked out and weirded out and almost disgusted that we wanted nothing more than to turn the darn movie off. But we didn’t.

Oh, why didn’t we?

The story ended with a strange and pointless twist that basically nullified everything that had happened in the movie. It was almost as bad as the ending that says, “And then I woke up and realized this was all just a dream.” (But not in that “Inception” kind of way.)

And I looked at my husband and said, “Why didn’t we turn that off at twenty minutes?”

This movie wasn’t the only one this has happened to us with. Obviously, since we asked how long we wanted to give it. Usually when we keep asking each other if we should turn it off and we keep thinking we should and never do, it’s more often than not a dissatisfying ending. So why do we not turn it off at twenty minutes?

I think the reason is because we’re such story addicts. We start watching something and we see the hook, and we see the problems, and we want it explained. We want to understand why it is that these things are happening to these people. I often have a similar problem with novels, but I’m more likely to set it down and leave it down with a novel. A movie keeps things moving right in front of you with no down time, which makes it a much harder decision to actually stop.

So how many times have you kept watching, even when you hate the movie? How many times have you gotten to the end of a novel and wanted to throw the thing across the room? Was it worth it? Do you somehow feel a little more completed because, even if it was an awful movie or book, at least now you understand what happened at the end? Is there a reason why you finished? Let me know in the comments section below.

Have fun and enjoy the writing.

3 comments

  1. Sure, we’ve done this all the time. But in my family, if the movie is really, really bad, we turn it into a comedy. I swear, we’re all actors and comedians and there is little that won’t entertain (except maybe close-up shots of gay sex). When it comes to a book, I give it three chapters or less. It’s not a group activity so it doesn’t “catch fire” like a movie does.

    Loved the post, very well written.

  2. Did that last night with a movie, in fact. (Then I had to watch a Star Trek episode to wash the taste out of my mouth.)

    At this point in life, I’m divided between “Life is too short for this” and “If I watch all the way to the end, I can give a *really conclusive* rant on how it’s awful from start to finish.”

    I like C.L. Currie’s method, though. Call it the MST3000 approach. We’ve had some riotous family “so bad it’s good” viewings that way.

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