Every once in a while a movie comes along and it’s met with almost universal acclaim … and I don’t like it. I’m not talking about overblown comic book movies like Sin City or The Dark Knight, because I don’t care why anyone could (inexplicably) like them. The former was beautiful but crap, and the latter was just vastly overrated. I am confident in these judgements. You may very well disagree with me (most movie-goers apparently do), and that’s fine, but I won’t lose any sleep over it, because I’m right and you’re wrong! But here’s a small, thoughtful, heartfelt movie on a human scale, dealing with human beings. It got an 84 on Metacritic, and a 93% at Rotten Tomatoes. It’s exactly the sort of movie I should like. And I didn’t. This is the sort of viewing experience that does make me doubt my own opinion. Was I just in a foul mood?
But then I found the minority opinion, expressed … guess where? In the viewer comments section at Metacritic. There were a lot of people who felt the way I did, so at least I know I’m not crazy. Poppy (Sally Hawkins) is without a doubt the happiest, bubbliest, most positive-thinking little imp ever put on the screen. Very soon, I wanted to kill her. She makes Pollyanna, Pangloss, and Candide look like pessimistic, sour old grumps. (Gee, putting it that way … how could I not dislike her?) I was with her, more or less, when she tried to brighten the day of a few grumps early on, and reacted to the theft of her bicycle with a smile and a shrug of the shoulders. Oh, well! It would be nice if we could all rebound from something like that so easily. After all, it’s just a thing, right? No big whoop. I think she would have the same reaction to World War III.
But it went on and on. She ended every sentence with a giggle that soon had me gritting my teeth. Then she started in on driving lessons with a man who was obviously seriously disturbed. She seemed absolutely incapable of taking him seriously, which is all he wanted from her. Okay, maybe she can’t take anything seriously … and yet, soon after, we see that in her job as a primary teacher (which she is good at, I’ll give her that, kids that age respond well to over-the-top behavior) she takes it very seriously when one of her pupils is acting aggressively, and helps a social worker discover that it’s because the kid’s mother beats him. But I began to wonder if she was intentionally needling the crazy driving instructor, knowing that her ditsy affect would drive him nuts … which was a dangerous game to play. I finally concluded that she was one of the most egocentric movie characters I’d ever seen.
No point in going on. Chances are you will like Poppy. I didn’t. [Ditto.]