I am a person who spends a whole lot of time expecting to hate things. Frequently this expectation is realised but occasionally it isn’t. When it isn’t, it’s a toss-up as to how I feel about this development. I recall reading an interview with Alicia Silverstone in Movieline in which she revealed herself to be the most annoying person in the universe, so I was all set to hate her in Clueless but, having seen the film, had to reverse my opinion. This made me feel lost in admiration at myself for being much more generous-spirited and open-minded than I’d realised. On the other hand, I recently suffered a huge disappointment when I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committedand had grudgingly to concede that I’d read much stupider books and that it didn’t make me immediately want to take out a contract on her life.
Similarly, if there was one film I’d expected to hate, it was Before Sunset, as it featured not only Ethan Hawke as one of the leads but the city of Paris, to the degree to which someone has no doubt written that ‘You could almost say that Paris is also one of the movie’s characters.’ However, I was stuck with it as an inflight movie, so reluctantly donned the headphones and prepared to be aggravated to the point of insanity. When the film kicked off with Hawke’s character giving a reading from his novel in a charming old Parisienne bookshop with the assembled crowd hanging on his every word, I immediately became a smouldering volcano of hatred. But then, to my amazement, I found I liked Before Sunset enormously, so much so that not long after landing back in Sydney, I went so far as to seek out the film to which it was a sequel, Before Sunrise. Even as I slapped my cash on the video shop counter I thought I might be going too far but, no, I liked Sunrise as well, if not quite as much as I liked Sunset, in which the characters are more beaten down by life.
Recently, as a birthday treat, I watched the Blu-Ray of Ed Zwick’s greatest work in the movies, About Last Night (yes, I know that the title, strictly speaking, has an ellipsis, but the ellipsis just looks stupid, unless it’s on the totally ‘rocking’ movie-poster artwork). The person I was watching it with had confidently predicted that he would hate the film, and his expectations were certainly met, as he nearly expired with boredom and disgust before the conclusion of its nearly two-hour running time. I, on the other hand, relished every moment of About Last Night being so clear that I could see every pore in Jim Belushi’s face as he dispensed sexist remarks, not to mention seeing every second of the film’s many montages so clearly that it was as though Rob Lowe were in the room with me as he dashed outside to get the newspaper on a cold morning or silently poured scorn on modern art. Furthermore, one of the DVD’s extras, featuring Zwick and Lowe ‘in conversation’, was almost too lucid when Lowe gave a slightly creepy wink in reply to Zwick joshing him about having dated Catherine Keener. Getting back to the movie itself, though, also astoundingly vivid was the obligatory scene in which someone, in this case, Lowe, is locked out of his residence while clad only in his underwear. I gave a start of recognition when I was watching the first episode of new Australian series Offspring just a couple of nights later and saw John Waters’ character, very early on in the piece, locked out of his house while wearing only underpants.
Now, my expectation with most new Australian television shows centring on the lives and loves of people who are on the right side of thirty-five is that I’m going to hate them, and I don’t even know why this is. It isn’t that I object to watching people on screen who are younger than I am; I prefer it, if anything. What’s more, I felt this same prejudice even when I was the same age as the people onscreen. When The Secret Life of Us premiered, yes, I was older than its characters but not that much older, and I was initially massively irritated by its self-consciously saucy conversations that, I was sure, no human would ever have, and Samuel Johnson’s voiceovers that always trod ground along the lines of ‘Sometimes you just have to know where you’re going before you can get there, if you don’t want to get lost on the way back, but sometimes you don’t know where you’re going and take a turning you didn’t expect and get lost, but maybe you’re not really lost’ and so on and so forth. But then, one summer, desperate for some ensemble drama, I rented the VHS tapes of Secret Life, and became a raging addict who wouldn’t let anyone else speak when the show was on. I remained in this condition even after pretty much all the original cast had left, except for Johnson, and even when Johnson had finally left as well.
As far as Offspring goes, I’m reserving judgment until it’s had a little more time to kick into gear, or not. However, while watching the first two episodes, I did have some notes.
1. I am glad that the opening credits featuring the lead character swimming seem to have been a one-off, with whomever is responsible for these things having now gone the View-Master route. Love My Way was enough ‘swimming credits’ for a thousand lifetimes, as far as I am concerned.
2. Much as I like and admire Kat Stewart, I wasn’t prepared, having just watched the first series of Tangle on DVD, to see her playing again quite so quickly the chaotic sister who is prone to bitter sibling rivalry, tactless remarks and having unwise sexual intercourse. Now I really have to stop and think which black-sheep character belongs to which show. And my head truly does feel fit to explode when I consider that the second series of Tangle would have been showing at the same time as Offspring.
3. Is Eddie Perfect going to be singing in every single episode? I understand that he’s supposed to be a devilishly charming ‘muso’, but I really just want some chitty-chat from the characters, not feel like I’m being dragged off to Capers every five minutes.
4. Before the end of the series, will we see even just one doctor who is both homely and with an unpleasant personality, as is so often the case in life? The last time I saw a doctor, she, when brusquely instructing me to have a pap smear, barked: ‘I’ve got a patient dying of cervical [or ‘cer-VI-acal’, as this medico pronounced it] cancer. You don’t want that to happen to you, DO YOU?’
Well, no, I don’t want that to happen to me. All I want is to relax with some ensemble drama and not have my expectations that I will be forced to feel a whole lot of hatred realised. That’s what I would call a quality night in.