I Couldn't Finish Watching Amusement

Or even start watching it, really. I'm wondering if this is something that happens to a lot of people, or if it's just me. Ever get ten minutes into the movie, realize exactly where it's going, and become so dispirited by the prospect of watching it take another eighty minutes to get there that you're compelled to call it quits?

It occurs to me that this is something I could have learned about other people simply by checking other film blogs, but it seems my pathological narcissism and self-obsession keeps me from caring about other people's life experiences, except when I Idly wondering about them here in blog posts.

Okay, so, where was I? Oh, right - Amusement.

The film opens with photos that go from childhood through high school, depicting three girls who will undoubtedly prove to be popular bitches. We know the popular part because each one was voted a 'most likely', and we know they were bitches because the fourth person profiled is a little boy with a series of psychoses, emotional problems and 'violent fantasies'.

The credits aren't even up yet, and we know that we're dealing with the story of a guy getting revenge on some girls who picked on him in school. I don't know the specifics - whether it was a lifetime of taunting or a single 'prank gone wrong' - since I didn't watch the rest of the movie, but this is obviously where things are going.

The first segment opens with a device I despise:

Onscreen character introduction titles. Don't even have a good reason for hating these, just don't like them unless there's some pressing artistic need for them to be there - this, like most, is just the writer or director (or both) being too lazy to figure out a way to establish which character we're following without making it too obvious.

The woman and her boyfriend have a rocky relationship, and are returning home after a weekend away. This leads to seriously five minutes of them debating the pro/cons of driving in a 'convoy'. They talk as if this is a popular term that people should be familiar with, and while I've certainly heard of one, it's only ever been used in the context of military or trucking convoys. The practice of driving the speed of the guy ahead of you for an extended period of time, while something I've done, isn't the kind of thing I've ever considered so complex as to require a name.

The characters are so fascinated by this whole 'convoy' technique that the boyfriend even follows the guy in front of him off an exit to fuel up, and gets into a conversation with the unbelievably creepy guy in the car next to him while standing at the pumps.

Why so creepy? He talks extensively about his children, but none are in evidence inside the car. Somehow the boyfriend misses this. It's during this scene, after wasting my time with five minutes of 'Amusement's guide to proper convoy etiquette', that the movie starts getting stupid. So let's examine this stupidity in the most rapid form available: Point form!

1: Girlfriend sees someone trapped in the trucker's cab, but isn't very upset by it.

2: Boyfriend agrees to follow creepy trucker in another 'convoy' just because the trucker announces that the interstate is stopped up ahead.

3: When trying to flee the cab of the truck, the trapped woman somehow manages to dive out the side of the cab, but instead of landing on the relatively soft shoulder-

She slams into the window of a car ten feet directly behind her.

4: The boyfriend leaves his girlfriend alone with a complete stranger because he's told to 'get the trucker's license plate number'. This, despite the fact that the stranger's car is the undamaged one, and he'd be far more capable of chasing the trucker down.

Okay, these next few require a (SPOILER ALERT) - the trucker isn't evil. He was just bringing the woman to rehab.

5: The completely innocent trucker who was hired to bring a girl to rehab speeds off into the night, rather than checking on the person who jumped out of his car.

6: That same trucker tries to run the boyfriend off the road rather than simply explaining the situation and asking for help. Why? So he'll seem evil.

7: Despite the fact that the truck is just fifty meters away from them, the creepy guy manages to get two women tied up and locked away in his car without the trucker noticing.

8: Then, despite not being evil, the trucker didn't pause to ask creepy guy where his charge was - or if he did, he believed what must have been a ridiculous lie about a woman who's just been hit by a car running off into the woods, and then departed with enough time for the creepy guy to fake being beaten up.

And this all must have happened in the 60-90 seconds it took for the boyfriend to follow him back down the road.

8: Boyfriend drives creepy guy's car after the trucker without noticing that the supposed 'children' in the back seat haven't woken up. This trip is elided over in the hopes we won't noticed how ridiculous it is that-

9: Girlfriend, despite not being restrained in any meaningful way or knocked out, makes no effort to signal her boyfriend during the entire ride following the trucker, nor in the sixty seconds they spend alone together in the car after arriving at the trucker's destination.

10: Someone hired a trucker to stuff a woman in his cab as a way of bringing her to rehab.

11: Boyfriend, despite the fact that he was driving the car all the way after the trucker, somehow didn't notice creepy guy taking the keys.

12: Upon figuring out that creepy guy is evil and has taken the car keys, Boyfriend sits in the car, waiting to be attacked, rather than getting out the other side and trying to figure the man whose physical stature is smaller than his own.

That's twelve distinct irresponsibly stupid developments in just fifteen minutes. As the segment ends with the boyfriend (presumably) killed and the other two women kidnapped, I know there's only one place this movie can possibly go - two more segments of the women from the opening sequence being kidnapped, followed by 30-45 minutes of them being tortured by a psychopath, with either them all being killed or just one surviving at the end.

When the first twenty minutes were this bad, why on Earth would I continue watching to discover how badly the filmmakers botched the next seventy? It's not like stupidity is a deal-breaker, either. Like any other schadenfreude-obsessed film blogger I can enjoy cackling over a failure, but the first section of Amusement doesn't even suggest that the film will offer any pleasures to the cruel-mockery inclined.

It's stupid in a lifeless, pedestrian fashion, as if the writer simply hadn't bothered to think things through as opposed to being truly deranged, then the script was directed and edited in an artless, workmanlike fashion, the film offers nothing to recommend it on any level.

I've never walked out of a movie, but in some bizarre alternate reality where this film received a theatrical release, I'd have been sorely tempted.

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