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The danger of high expectations in cinema

When expectations are at a minimum, everything greater becomes a maximum. In less obscure terms: when the bar is set low for a movie, it becomes an added bonus if it ends up being decent.

During the previews prior to “Lady Bird,” the theatre showed a trailer for “The Disaster Artist,” which was released today. It was a surreal moment, considering I already had the pleasure of viewing the film at a screening back in March. At the time, I knew next to nothing about the plot of the movie and was left virtually clueless.

Now when I look back, I’m thrilled I made it to the screening because it’s the talk of the town. James Franco’s performance as Tommy Wiseau has been receiving Oscar buzz since its premiere at the South by Southwest festival. To think I considered passing it up just because I assumed it would be a dud was absurd. I know if I had seen a trailer beforehand, I would have thought, “skip, looks dumb.”

To my complete surprise, I left the theater with my sides hurting. Even without viewing the cult classic “The Room,” which is the premise of “The Disaster Artist,” I still found it hilarious. It’s stupid-funny like “Napoleon Dynamite,” but funny nonetheless.

As for “Lady Bird,” I found it did not live up to the hype. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. The acting was phenomenal and the mother-daughter dialogue held uncanny similarities to my own relationship with my mom. The storyline was a tad formulaic for a hipster coming-of-age movie but still an endearing flick worthy of a solid 7.5/10.

The problem is when the standards are set so high, you’re really just setting a movie up for failure. This doesn’t apply to failure in typical terms of box office numbers and critical acclaim, but in the reactions of audiences.

When a movie with such high praise reaches a certain point since its release, it will inevitably begin to receive some disapproval. This isn’t because it’s any less worthy of the best-reviewed movie in Rotten Tomatoes history but because of those darn lofty expectations. The converse effect is why sometimes, when something is reviewed negatively, it’s actually more appreciated by default because viewers are pleasantly delighted.

It’s certainly reverse psychology at its finest, but critics should really consider this when overpraising movies. The same can be said about producers when they package their movies. Along with the power of reviews, misleading or all-telling trailers are the second guaranteed approach for an expectation let down.

Maybe a film shrouded in disguise won’t initially rake in the dough, but it’s a better alternative than a trailer that gives everything away. Let’s get real, Hollywood. What’s worse: poor ticket sales or disappointed viewers who are left with a letdown of a movie?

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