We have friends who occasionally say that they go to the
theater or a film that is so bad that they walk out. “Life is too short,” they say. “I already wasted one hour, why waste a
On the one hand, I hear the argument and I am always a big believer that everyone has to do what is right for himself/herself without fear of being judged by others. That being said, I, myself, generally don’t believe in walking out of theater or films in the middle. With a single, vivid exception (which I’ll get to later), I typically do not walk out of theater or film that I am not enjoying.
My thinking goes like this:
(1) Live theater and film is not cheap to make. Many people had to see something of merit in a given work to invest lots of time and money to bring it to the stage or screen. There are certainly works that I like better than others; that resonate with me on a personal level more than others. In fact, I feel like I am a particularly harsh critic. But if all of these people found this work to be worth their time and money, maybe I should hang around to the end to find out if there is something in the latter half of the work to redeem any shortcomings of the beginning.
There can be great performances in mediocre
works. I don’t know about you but I have
certainly been surprised by an actor’s performance, choices, humor, physicality
and/or singing in ways that cause them to stand out from a work that may not be
up to their talent. Even where I may not
be enjoying the plot or music, I can often find something enjoyable in a given
performance of one or more of the actors.
(3) Tickets are expensive. I know there’s a theory that the more you pay for a given item or experience, the more you WANT to like it to justify the expense. You want to find a reason to say it was worth spending all of that money on the ticket. That may in fact be true, but I will be the first to tell you when something was a dud. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. But how can you be sure there are no redeeming qualities unless you stay to the end? Personally, I’m more likely than not to stick it out to get as much out of the work as possible.
(4) Not that it happens all that often, but I can always take a nap. I’m one of those people who can sleep nearly anywhere. So on occasion, if something is just not grabbing me, I might “rest my eyes” for a few minutes while I wait for intermission. Nobody is the wiser and this way, I don’t disturb my lovely bride if she is enjoying the work more than I am.
Because walking out is such an anomaly for me, I vividly recall one instance in which my wife and I silently agreed that enough was enough. We were at a screening of a French film called “Irreversible” at a film festival. The film starts with a horrific, graphic, murder. This murder is pretty quickly followed by a graphic, violent scene of sexual assault. And to make matters even worse, during the first half of the film, it uses an extremely low-frequency sound to unsettle the audience while also creating a state of nausea and anxiety. It is not immediately perceptible to the spectator, but enough to evoke a physical response. On top of all of that, it was probably close to midnight when we went to see this film so we didn’t have the patience to see it through. Was it bad enough to walk out of? We thought so.
But don’t judge us. 😊
Thanks for reading!