Last night I walked out of a screening of Keane, due for release in late September. It wasn’t the worst movie, at least what I saw of it. Represented by one of my favorite publicists, one known for her choosiness, and executive-produced by Steven Soderbergh (which doesn’t automatically recommend a film; see Criminal or, rather, don’t), I’d been anticipating Keane with some low-level excitement. But 30 minutes in, I knew I had to leave. The story of an obviously mentally ill man seeking a daughter abducted from NY Port Authority made me wobbly: crampy, headachey, feverish, dizzy. Made me like him, in other words; him, as he spun in circles and hissed at himself and pulled anxiously at all his layers of clothes.
I used to believe that anything that evoked such a strong physical reaction shouldn’t be dismissed — the first 10 minutes of Leaving Las Vegas were at least as harrowing as this film, for example — but the last two films that I’d found as nauseating (Demonlover and Irréversible) didn’t exactly inspire me to stay yesterday. Both ambushed my senses merely as a crash course in their stunted nihilism. Keane’s payoff for all this physical misery wasn’t clear enough; I could see stretching ahead another whole hour of a wild-eyed, tight-mouthed man inadvertently bungling all the lives all around him. So I grabbed my purse and hustled out in search of some Advil.
Back before I mostly attended press screenings, I walked out on films all the time. It was a lavish, dramatic gesture, almost like paying for a bad date’s meal with your last 50 bucks. It was my way of claiming my time as important, of also (I must confess) peeving my then-boyfriend, who insisted on catching not only every trailer but every final credit. Looking back, skipping out really was a luxury. As a paying audience member, I had a right to walk if the movie wasn’t holding me in its grasp. These days, I’m a cog in the film industry machine — albeit a small cog. (Right now I’m mostly doing listings for the estimable flavorpill. ) I still feel lucky to be invited to screenings, and, especially in the case of indie movies, I feel a responsibility to the filmmakers who’ve likely invested a few years of their lives and their resources to at least watch the whole damn thing. What if the film is great and just hasn’t inspired the right critics so far, hasn’t been accepted by the right festivals? (The terrific Funny Ha Ha is a prime example.)
Honestly, I’m not proud of what I did yesterday. I’m thinking of seeing the film again in penance. And of pleading heat exhaustion.