The movie Gone Girl came to Key West a while back, stopping first at the rather dreary barn that passes for a multiplex in this small town. The Regal Cinema Six sits next to Sears and Publix in the far reaches of New Town and attracts movie goers who seem more intent on a date than on dialogue and haute cuisine in the lobby is represented by popcorn and soda sold at astronomic prices. Call me a snob but I like the Tropic where my membership buys me a discounted access to adult movie going.
It does not however always work out that way. Summers at the Tropic are glorious, the older entitled petulant winter movie crowd have returned to their eeries Up North, the cinema is a quiet thoughtful haven of cool air and alcohol away from the heat and humidity of summer. I like to swim, I enjoy boating (when the boat runs) but my afternoons off are a glorious opportunity to see a movie in peace and alone allowing me to get immersed in the pleasure of the giant silver screen.
Gone Girl deserves the concentration a screening rooms allows, as it is superficially a thriller, a story of murder, cheating and trickery on an epic and disturbing scale. I found it also to be a delightful and sardonic take on the state of journalism, public gossip and the power of personality driven "reporting" that has the power to emasculate the police. The movie raises so many issues and propels so much social commentary on so many levels that despite my initial reticence I found myself sucked into a story that as my wife said was pretty straightforward but that actually deviated constantly from the cliches of the plot. It is really worth a look.
However our carefully crafted strategy of waiting for the movie to play out at the Regal, and then allow it to be screened for a while at the Tropic failed us. There were two people in the small theater screening room when we arrived. We sat across the room from them but unfortunately a dozen more movie goers joined us, the last clump of elderly patrons plunked themselves down in the seats directly in front of us despite the wide selection of empty rows to sit in. And it was party time in the row in front of us. We moved to the back of the theater next to the two young women in the corner. In retrospect that might have been a bad move.
One of them had a raucous deep phlegm-filled cough, such that you could hear the nicotine tainted sputum circulating in her mouth as she gasped and wheezed and retched. All I could think was a) glad I got my flu shot, diphtheria shot and whooping cough shot this year and b) she needs to drop the meth habit or she will cough herself to death before her teeth rot. The two twats talked of course, more during the slow scenes of reflection and speech making and less during the bloody murder and contrived abuse scenes. I paid them back by laughing out loud as a sex scene ended in a fountain of erupting blood and sudden spasming death, even as they sucked their witless breath in, in horror. Then a phone rang. At least the second half wit declined to answer even if she couldn't figure out how to turn it off.
They weren't alone. The old fogies further up the aisles were twittering and explaining the plot to each other and it was a plot with lots of twists so the conversation was spasmodic but never quite ending. The bloody death scene ended it for a while.
Somehow I kept my shit together and the movie kept me absorbed in its convoluted story and well drawn characters, so I'm glad I didn't obey my early inclination to leave the theater and breathe fresh silent air.
So I ask myself why people think the movie theater is an extension of their home viewing experience? Some entertainment doesn't merit a theater and the pause button is a beautiful thing, but the joy of the theater is the ability to immerse oneself in a story. Why pay eight or more dollars to pretend you are at home? Furthermore why is it okay to spoil my night out? Especially with a great movie right up there on the screen?
My wife the teacher had Veterans' Day off so we came out of the theater to crowds of people cheerfully waving flags and I noticed something I hadn't noticed before for some reason. Key West suddenly looked like the garrison town it is. There were white Navy uniforms dotting the sidewalks, and the place looked like those black and white photos from seventy years ago when being in the military meant living in uniform and being seen in public as a member of the armed services.
I'm not perfect and my phone has been known to go off in a movie theater, but it all just seemed too much for one afternoon. We went to Santiago's and had delicious tapas: clams, ribs, fiery potatoes, and meaty empanadas, and that took the edge off the bad manners elsewhere.
With the roof rolled back my wife did me the courtesy of driving us home in her Fiat 500 and I spent the thirty minute ride looking up at a gloriously starry night. This place would be Paradise- without the people!