My favorite thing about seeing movies at the Dollar Theater (which actually costs $1.50, but nevermind about that, that doesn't have the same ring as Dollar Theater, who would call it the Dollar-Fifty Theater?) is that my expectations are so low, I am often pleasantly surprised when the movie is better than average, good even.
Take tonight's selection, "Stranger Than Fiction." Going in, I knew it starred Will Ferrell (whom I love, and will always love if for no other reason than the Cheerleader Skit on SNL), Emma Thompson (who doesn't love Emma Thompson? If you don't, I don't want to know. She said something once in an interview about having a "big-shouldered" admiration for something or someone, I forget, but I still think she was talking about me), Maggie Gyllenhal (besides having the world's most attractive brother AND husband (is that fair?), she's an amazing actress), Dustin Hoffman (as a college professor! who is also a lifeguard! and reads Sue Grafton while he's lifeguarding!), and wait, I haven't even gotten to the best part, Queen Latifah!!! (as the writer's assistant. Is that fair? I'm sure I could write a great novel if I had Queen Latifah to bring me coffee and arrange notecards in my sparsley furnished apartment).
My expectations for this film were low. How low? Well, I had heard almost nothing about it (buzz=0), and it seemed like it had hit the dollar theater pretty quickly, so I was prepared for it to be funny in parts, charming in parts, and to have some flaw, major or minor, that would make me like it a little less.
Well, of course I was pleasantly surprised. The only flaw, that I could see, were the several scenes where the mic was lowered too far. But being the great post-modernist that I am, I wondered, briefly, if I was supposed to see the mic. Like the director reminding me, "hello! you're watching a movie!" Unfortunately, I think it was just a mistake. But, as I said, that was the only flaw.
The great strengths of this film, aside from the amazing cast, were the intelligent script, the clever but not too clever camera work, and soundtrack.
Plus, Dustin Hoffman, as charming, caffeine-swilling, self-involved college professor, gets to say, quoting from a line that is the Will Ferrell character's life, "Little did he know? Little did he know? I wrote a paper on 'Little did he know.' I taught a whole seminar on 'Little did he know.'" Perhaps the reason this film did not do better is because only graduate students and college teachers will think that is funny.
But count me pleasantly surprised. I highly recommend this film. And, actually, the dollar theater is still the dollar theater before five.
So that's the benefit of low expectations.
(Unfortunately, my expectations were not so low for the Ginger dairy-free, gluten-free, egg-free cookie I took as my "snack." Let's just say I was not pleasantly surprised. But I did eat the whole thing.)