When We Care More About the Extras than the Movie’s Stars

You know there’s a problem with a movie when you find yourself more concerned with the movie’s extras than with its stars. Twice in the last week as I was flipping through TV channels, I came upon movie scenes that had me wanting to tell the lead characters to have a little consideration for the people in the background, please.

The first of these scenes came when I found myself watching the end of a romantic comedy called Picture Perfect. The movie’s hero (played by Jay Mohr) is, apparently, a wedding videographer in the movie. The movie’s star, Jennifer Aniston (and I like Jennifer Aniston – this is not about her), walks down the aisle behind the bride and down a pew to confess her love to the hero. While he is trying to do his job. While the wedding is happening. While the bride and groom are experiencing, we can hope, the one and only wedding of their lifetimes. The videographer tries to shush Aniston’s character – but she will have none of it – she must give her spiel right then, right there – never mind about the other couple’s wedding. The hero has to turn off his video recorder, so that the Aniston character can apologize for all the grief she’s put him through and yada yada. Meanwhile, the wedding stops. The focus is no longer on the bride and groom. Everyone is watching the shenanigans betwixt Aniston and Mohr. And when they kiss, everyone – including the exceedingly gracious bride and groom – applauds. And then – in the background – we see the bride and groom finally getting a chance to kiss – as, you know, a sort of by-the-way. And as I was watching all this play out, I felt myself getting really indignant with Aniston’s character. What the heck?! Couldn’t she wait until the other couple’s wedding was over to pledge her love and stuff?! Did she have no respect for the videographer’s job?! Did she think everything was about her?!!! I found myself shaking my head and feeling really sorry for Mohr’s character – it was obvious to me he was getting himself hooked up with someone who had a serious personality disorder.

The second scene that I happened upon in my channel-surfing and that got me all fired up and indignant was a scene between Liam Neeson (again, I like him – this is not about him) and a character that I’m thinking must have been his movie ex-wife. (?) They were angry at each other – the woman was seeing someone else, and told Neeson that was none of his business. They’re yelling at each other as they go down a hotel hallway. They stop in front of the elevator, where another man is waiting to get on. Neeson turns to the innocent by-stander and says something surly to him that makes him go scurrying off. The elevator doors open. The woman gets in and then holds the doors open so she can deliver a last angry speech to Neeson about his many short-comings and so forth. But at this point I was no longer interested in either the woman or Neeson – I was watching the extras in the elevator behind her – the innocent by-standers caught up in this argument, who only wanted to ride the elevator up or down to wherever they were going, so’s they could get on with their lives. I felt bad for them. And then the woman turns to the extras and shows them her derision for Neeson. She says something like, “Oh, look at the poor baby.” And I found myself asking what in the heck Neeson saw in this inconsiderate woman, and worrying that maybe the extras weren’t going to get where they needed to go in time – held up by this couple who seemed to think the world revolved around them.

And I know that’s all silly – I mean… in these movies, the world really DOES revolve around the lead characters. Duh, right? But I was thinking it might actually be fun and kind of interesting to start a movie with a scene like one of the ones I’ve described here – maybe bring in big names like Liam Neeson and Jennifer Aniston – make the audience think that these are the people the movie’s going to be about – and then take a turn in the script – suddenly the camera’s not on Neeson and Aniston – instead the camera follows the bride and groom as they head off to their reception, or one of the people on the elevator as he goes off for his job interview – having to rush because Neeson’s ex-wife has made him late.

Now THAT’s a movie I might enjoy. 🙂

– Karen Molenaar Terrell

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