Monday, December 03, 2012

British movies in British Cinemas: Gambit (2012)

Going to the movies in London isn't quite an alien experience, but it's more different than I might have expected.


Even the posters outside are shaped differently! Crazy, huh? I have to remember to take a look at a Silver Linings Playbook poster when I get home, though, to see if the "Playbook" part has been de-emphasized even more outside the US, because you probably don't want to bring the football stuff up (what the characters are obsessed with is less important than that they're obsessed, but still...).

Anyway, the first difference comes at the box office, where they ask you where you want to sit. Part of that is asking if you want a premium ticket - I said no, as the more comfortable chairs don't make up for being in the back of the house - but part of that is just that the seats are assigned. It seems strange, but given that seats at most sorts of entertainment are assigned, you can go the other way and say that general admission makes little sense. I do sort of wonder, however, if the people at the box office attempt the "checkerboard" pattern that generally forms in American theaters when attendence isn't expected to be high - after all, nobody wants someone sitting directly next to or in front of them if that's not absolutely necessary.

Inside was when it got kind of strange for me, though, as pretty much the entire concession process is potentially self-serve. There's popcorn and soda behind the concession stand, but those same things are also free-standing, along with the pick & mix candies, bagged candies, Doritos, bottled drinks, and other snacks. There's also a section for bar drinks and a door to the adjacent café, although I'm guessing you need a premium ticket to have those delivered to your seat. I admit to being a little flummoxed by that, which is kind of hilarious - going to a movie and getting snacks is something I've done literally thousands of times and here I am, staring stupidly.

Anyway, once that was sorted, it was into the theater (where I probably could have chosen to sit anywhere but D-12 if I chose), and what seemed like a pretty strong barrage of ads before the previews. Not totally unusual, but most chains in the US have moved the ad package to before the printed start time. The movie itself, as you can see from the review, wasn't that great, but it also wasn't my first choice (but that's a story for when I do get to that movie).

Gambit (2012)

* ½ (out of four)
Seen 2 December 2012 in Odeon Kensington #4 (first-run, digital)

It's a horrible thing when a caper movie doesn't come off. The great ones are casual and precise in a way that seems to come as much from alchemy as chemistry, and when that doesn't happen, it seems as though all the necessary ingredients are there but just don't come together at all.

Harry Deane (Colin Firth) has a plan - an expert on impressionist art working for the Shabandar Media Group and responsible for curating its egotistic head's art collection in particular, he has concocted a backstory by which he can sell Lionel Shabandar (Alan Rickman) a Monet forged by his friend Wingate (Tom Courtenay). Convincing Shabandar of the picture's provenance will involve American cowgirl PJ Puznowski (Cameron Diaz), who is naturally unpredictable, but another hitch is added to the mix when Shabandar plans to replace Harry with a new curator in the form of Martin Zaidenweber (Stanley Tucci).

The screenplay for this version of Gambit is by Joel & Ethan Coen, and there's a recognizable oddball sensibility to it; it is full of people who are not nearly as smart as they think they are. And yet, there seems to be a great deal missing that no amount of style is going to make up for. For instance, a great sting; even without having seen the 1966 original, what passes for a twist is utterly predictable. The plot holes on the way there are fairly huge, too; while the lack of high-tech art authentication may be excused by the characters being eccentric, a single security camera would have foiled the plot twice (including in one astonishingly pointless, runtime-padding sequence), and "yeah, but there wasn't one" isn't really a valid excuse here - the audience has pointedly been alerted to the possibility, so the plan needs to take it into account or be found wanting.

Full review at EFC.

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