A lot of times, especially with the obscure ones, especially with the subtitled ones, if a movie is slow and just doesn’t grab me early, my mind starts to wander and it’s hard for me to get into it later.
I feel like with Poison Friends, though, I made a much, much better effort to stick with it regardless of how I was feeling about it.
It’s a French film about an overbearing, cynical literature graduate student who dominates his little circle by reminding everyone constantly that he knows everything and is entitled to look down on the world (to the point of putting down one of his fellows for the way he takes his coffee).
And from the beginning, very, very little actually happens. There are scenes and dialogue to establish that that’s the kind of person he is, and that that’s the kind of relationships he has with these other students, but other than being marginally interesting psychologically, that just didn’t do much for me.
But I felt almost a perverse commitment to remain attentive. I figured something’s going to happen, it’s going to pick up, and I don’t want to be confused because I was only half paying attention to things I’d need to know later.
And granted, there are significant plot developments as the movie goes on, which, again, are a little interesting psychologically. (Basically, the guy’s largely bluff. He fails and lies about it. The others succeed and feel self-conscious about it, because he’s trained them to think whatever they do is probably crap or some kind of sellout.) But for the most part it remains tedious in pace and style the whole way.
There really was no payoff to my sticking with it. It’s just a boring movie.
It’s the kind of thing that may well make an interesting short story, say. Because if I think about just the basic storyline, the kind of person he is, etc., it’s not like there’s nothing to think about, nothing to care about. But there’s not a hundred minutes worth of material to this story.
I spent quite a few years in graduate school, by the way, so that potentially could have enabled me to connect better with these characters. But I didn’t recognize myself or the people I went to graduate school with in this movie. I remember people mostly being humble and wanting to help each other out. The kind of pretentious speechifying and such that goes on in classrooms and in the social lives of these characters struck me much more as a movie thing, or the way outsiders might guess academia is.
Or it could be a French thing. Maybe at the Sorbonne or some high falutin’ college like that, this is what the people are like.
But anyway, Poison Friends does have its moments of clever dialogue and such. (Example: One of the characters doesn’t want to admit he’s so uncool as to have written literature, so he insists his piece is actually “meta-narrative.”) For my tastes though, overall it’s a dud.