Most Disappointing Movies of 2011

2011 was an incredible year for movies. I’ll be delving into its bounty next week with a year-end round-up. But as always, some movies just didn’t deliver. Saddled with impressive pedigrees or reputations, these three left me frustrated and disappointed…

Midnight in Paris

Woody Allen is back, I was told. It’s a return to form! His highest-grossing movie ever! Brimming with magic and wit! So I watched it, and saw… well, a series of Lost Generation caricatures more befitting a New Yorker article than a feature film. It’s pleasant enough, representing 1920s Paris as a haze of champagne and Cole Porter music, but also terminally self-satisfied. Its iconic writers and artists aren’t meant as real people, but automatons: they come onscreen, stroke the ego of Owen Wilson’s Allen surrogate, spout some stereotypical dialogue, then disappear. Corey Stoll has fun with Hemingway, and Adrien Brody makes a hilarious Dalí, but they’re still just idealized sketches. The film ends by disavowing nostalgia, yeah, but in a really facile and half-assed way. It’s a cute, fuzzy lark of a movie, a mildly cultured wish fulfillment fantasy, but that’s about it. (Extra points off for totally wasting Rachel McAdams as a one-note shrew.)

The Ides of March

I’m always game for a good political thriller. And a cast including George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Paul Giamatti? I couldn’t be gamer. But The Ides of March squanders them all on a silly, self-important story whose twists and turns are more funny than thrilling. Gosling plays a doe-eyed campaign strategist who worships at the feet of Clooney’s Obama-esque candidate. But the second he discovers that Clooney gasp spoiler once had sex with a cute intern, he pulls a 180 and becomes hell-bent on clumsy, nonsensical revenge. The movie’s political landscape is a total fantasy; its women are dispensable plot devices; and its dialogue is inert and overwritten, punctuated by random fucks like a bad Mamet imitation. Hell, the film’s most enjoyable moment is when Hoffman growls the words “tits and all.” I love movies about tense political chess matches. The Ides of March is a drunken game of political foosball.

The Future

In theory, I love a lot about Miranda July’s sophomore feature. I love the idea of filtering midlife ennui through oddball metaphors with all the clarity of a children’s book. I love loose, unconventional approaches to storytelling and I love kitties. But wow, I hated watching The Future. July and co-star Hamish Linklater play a thirtysomething couple who, dominated by entropy, move incrementally toward pet adoption. When they speak, it’s in a halting deadpan; when they make choices, they bow to the gods of whimsy. Eventually they break up—and this would be poignant, but all emotion has been smothered out of The Future by a pillow of affectations. The film’s occasionally inspired, as when July chats with a pair of friends who age, give birth, and die over the course of a few shots. But it’s all so solipsistic, so barren, and so grating, with two protagonists who only vaguely resemble real people. A hellish Future indeed.

Did you enjoy these, or were you similarly underwhelmed? What were your great disappointments of 2011?

4 Comments

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4 responses to “Most Disappointing Movies of 2011

  1. Hugh Gallagher

    Just got back from seeing “Young Adult”. Pretty unimpressed with the writing. The dialog seemed too “writerly” and unnatural. I know Diablo Cody won all sorts of awards for “Juno” and I suppose that’s partly why I was expecting more from her latest work.

  2. My biggest disappointment was Kevin Smith’s Red State. It’s a project I was intrigued by when he talked about it years ago and I was excited that it finally got made. A horror film about Westboro Baptist Church extremists? It’s rife with interesting and dynamic material. But it ended up being a unfocused hazy hodge podge of various topics with no real point or cohesion, with no interesting characters or themes. I was mouth agape at the end of just how bad it was. I was stunned, and really bummed that a movie I had waited years for was such a spectacular train wreck.

  3. @Hugh: I’ve been meaning to see Young Adult, but your sentiments are pretty in line with what I’ve been hearing about it. That’s unfortunate. But as long as I get Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt onscreen together…

    @Mike: I also plan to still see Red State, though I have no hope for that one. And I used to feel the same way you did! Horror movie about the WBC, co-starring John Goodman? How could it fail? But I guess we underestimated just how tedious of a filmmaker Kevin Smith can be. It’s especially frustrating that he took it on the road, made a huge deal out of self-distributing it, only for it to be garbage. But I’ll still probably watch it out of morbid curiosity.

  4. I actually liked how the famous people in MIDNIGHT IN PARIS were all caricatures, it made it funnier for me. Like, I know Hemingway wasn’t literally some loud drunk who yelled everything and only talked about fighting, but that’s totally how I imagine him! I hate hate hated the present-day storyline with Rachel McAdams, though, so frustratingly one-dimensional and not in keeping with the charm of the 20’s scenes.

    I mostly agree with you on THE FUTURE. It had some ideas I really liked (loved the time-stopping segment, and the aging conversation you mentioned), but overall it’s just too cluttered to really work. I enjoyed Hamish Linklater’s performance though.

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