Friday, February 4, 2011

Movie Review: Waiting for Forever

“Things were as bad as they could get. And then they got worse.”

This quote (an actual line in the movie) perfectly describes the experience of watching Waiting for Forever: it was bad as I thought it could be, and then it got worse.

My first indication that this was a Seriously Bad Movie was when, during the first ten minutes, I couldn’t figure out if the main character (who is hitchhiking his way across the country) is actually retarded or if I am simply too critical of his slow, almost stuttering speech pattern. But gradually, as the plot went from being confusingly strange to overwhelmingly cliché, I determined that this was a really bad movie when incessant close-ups began to remind me of the first part of Disney’s Aladdin, where the storytelling character gets squished up against the camera. “Please, please, come closer. Oops! Too close! A little too close.” Then, in Aladdin, the scene ends with the camera falling back and the character sighing, “There!” Unfortunately, no such luck in Waiting for Forever. The audience is left squirming back against their seats as they are assaulted by one close-up shot after another.

Note to both the director and the cinematographer: close-up shots are meant to capture extremely slight, crucial changes of expression on actors’ faces that help to draw out emotional tension in a scene. These shots should be used sparingly, and for emphasis. If you think every moment of your script warrants a close-up, you are wrong. Furthermore, if your actors incapable of expressing small facial expressions, then you probably shouldn’t use close-ups at all.

Back to my review: Essentially, the plot of Waiting for Forever lumps one big cliché on top of another. In fact, when I tried to describe the movie to my sister, she asked, “Are you sure it wasn’t supposed to be a spoof?” It wasn’t.

To imagine this movie (since you hopefully will not waste your money seeing it), start with the classic, overdone chick-flick premise “follow your heart.” Then, make this idea so literal that the main character, Will, ends up following the love of his life (Emma) all over the country. Add to that the fact that Will seems mentally handicapped, but don’t let any other characters confirm or deny this. That way, for the better part of the movie, the audience sit there wondering whether Will is actually supposed to seem retarded, or if he’s just that lovesick and they’re that judgmental.

Next, focus on Emma, a failed actress whose dour and depressed personality inspires men to fall senselessly in love with her as they gradually become stalkers. Then, throw in Emma’s father, who is irritable, sarcastic, and dying of cancer; Emma’s mother, a woman is so intent on things being “just fine” that she comes off as mentally disturbed; and Emma’s boyfriend, who I at first suspected was abusing Emma (but later found out that he merely murdered his best friend because Emma cheated on him with the guy). On Will’s side are best friend and refrigerator-salesman Joey, Joey’s outrageously short wife, and their blond child who looks nothing like either of them, plus Will’s brother, who wants Will to “shape up” but eventually (of course) comes to his rescue when Will is falsely accused of murder.

Oh, and don’t forget that Will’s parents died in a train wreck when he was a kid and he still talks to them (although we only see evidence of this one time throughout the whole movie).

Perhaps the problem is that Waiting for Forever tries to be too many genres and fails at all of them. It could have been a chick flick, but its tone and subplots are too serious to let it just be a simple love story. (And, in fact, the main plot is probably too serious for it to be a chick flick. After all, as sweet as he may be made to seem, Will was technically stalking Emma.) It could have been a family drama (featuring Emma’s family alone!), but we spend so little time observing any family dynamics that the few “emotional” scenes we do see become ridiculous. (Case in point: there is a scene in the movie where Emma’s dying father is laying in a bathtub and her mother walks in. The father makes some sort of snarky comment, and suddenly the mother is hitting him with a towel and screaming that she hates him and wishes he would die. At this point, the audience is supposed to gasp in shock and feel empathy for both characters. Instead, we all laughed.) It could have been a horror flick, between the stalker/murderer boyfriend and the stalker childhood friend. However, the boyfriend never scares us and the friend is styled to evoke our sympathy, so it definitely did not come close to being a horror film.

To finish things off, I will quote the line that best illustrates the audience’s confusion and the script’s ludicrous nature:

Emma: “Are you following me?”

Will: “I just go where you go.”

Other corroborating reviews:


Anonymous said...

COMPLETELY RUDE. i think u need to watch this movie over. or your just a bad reviewer. i think this movie is THE BEST MOVIE I HAVE EVER WATCHED now one of my absolute favorites. if u plan to watch dont just not watch it because of a negative review WATCH IT and see what u think of it for yourself. TRUElY best movie its so moving and heart filled. I recomend watching.

Allison Goldstein said...

Hi Anonymous,

You are certainly entitled to your opinion! People like different sorts of movies--that's why they're out there. However, in my own defense, I just want to point out that I wasn't the only viewer to pan it. A few notable others:

"I felt suffocated by the gaseous sentimentality and lightheadedness of a story that drops in subplots that it can’t begin to develop. " (New York Times)

"A drippy romance that makes Nicholas Sparks look like Leo Tolstoy." (New York Post)

"With "Waiting for Forever," an insipid contemporary fairy tale about a lovestruck young vagabond shadowing a childhood sweetheart he can't bring himself to approach, we get stalking, juggling and cancer. Happy Valentine's Day!" (LA Times)

And Rotten Tomatoes gave it a whopping 6% approval rate--not exactly a rave review.