Friday, December 2, 2011

Film Friday: The Tourist (2010)

The Tourist can’t decide if it wants to be an unfunny comedy, a romance without chemistry, or a dull action film. In the end it splits the difference. It also adds an awful twist which makes everything so much worse. But its biggest flaw is rampant unbelievably.

** spoiler alert -- I will talk about the twist/ending **

The Plot

Angelina Jolie’s boyfriend is a financier who absconded with billions in mob money. He owes ₤744 million in taxes on this money. But he’s disappeared and got plastic surgery so no one can recognize him. Scotland Yard wants their money. They follow Jolie hoping she will lead them to him. And as the film begins, she gets a message from her boyfriend to board a train, find a man with his same build and features and make the cops think he is the boyfriend. She picks Johnny Depp, an American high school teacher who happens to be on vacation. Jolie takes him to Venice, where they get a mansion-like hotel room. Once there, mobsters try to kill him because they think he’s the boyfriend. Some stuff happens, there’s a twist, and everyone leaves the theater disappointed.
The Problems
This film stinks because there’s a total lack of chemistry between the stars. Indeed, Jolie and Depp have all the chemistry of an accountant and a construction worker sitting across from each other on a bus. But it isn’t all their fault. Before any relationship can work in film, be it a romance, a friendship or even absolute hatred between two enemies, the audience must believe the characters’ feelings are genuine. That’s impossible here.

For one thing, Jolie isn't believable in her role. She’s plastic and her acting is stiff. It’s like the director told her apathy is her motivation. She’s way overdressed for day-to-day life. And while she’s clearly rich, she has nowhere to live and owns nothing personal. In effect, she’s the kind of blank character who doesn’t exist off screen.

Moreover, her premise stinks. She’s supposed to be so in love with the boyfriend that she continues to pine for him every waking moment of her life even after he’s been gone a year, yet she never displays any passion about him. Even when she’s asked directly, she muddles something about not being sure she really loves him. Huh?! Then why live her life waiting for his call?! Nor is it ever explained why she didn’t go with him when he left in the first place. Why the Rube Goldberg plot contrivance of “hey, let’s separate for a year and then you see if you can spot me!”? Also, despite being so deeply in love, she immediately falls in love with Johnny Depp. This again contradicts her entire character which is premised on waiting for her true love’s return.

Depp is no better. The film tries to establish Depp and Jolie as a sort of “opposites attract” scenario with her being sophisticated Euro trash and Depp being an American bumpkin. But he isn’t. Depp is supposed to be a simple high school teacher on vacation, but nothing about him fits that description. He’s got traces of an English accent. He dresses unorthodoxly like an actor at a publicity function. He spouts views you would find in European political journals, and there’s nothing about him to suggest a real life outside the plot.

Further, his character is incredibly unappealing. He’s smug and effete. He’s also entirely reactive in the film. Not once does he take the lead in any scene. Instead, he allows himself to be pushed around by Jolie, by waiters, by hotel clerks and by the cops. And since these other characters are ridiculous, it gets tiring.

What do I mean by ridiculous? Simple. Their actions are not credible -- they act purely in ways to drive the plot. For example, a police officer watches the mobsters chase Depp across rooftops and shoot at him. But when Depp hits the ground and knocks the cop over, the cop magically forgets everything he just saw and arrests Depp for assaulting him. Why? So Depp can get arrested, betrayed by the cops to the mob, and then Jolie can save him.

The Scotland Yard officers are incompetent buffoons like the Keystone Cops, only without the sense they are meant to be funny. The head agent is obsessed and keeps the investigation going even after his boss cancels it. . . why the other agents go along with this is never explained. He also acts incredibly recklessly just to further the plot, like when he tells his snipers not to fire as the mobsters are about to kill Depp and Jolie just because he wants to see if the boyfriend will somehow show up to save them. At one point, in the climax of a stakeout just as the mobsters put a gun in Jolie’s face, he decides that he and the other officers should “have some fun” with Depp by pretending to think Depp is really the boyfriend. This. . . makes. . . no. . . sense! Cops do not play pointless practical jokes when someone they are watching is being threatened with a gun. Then, inexplicably, Depp escapes from the van unnoticed as the cops turn their backs.

It get worse. The agent waits too long to call the snipers, so Depp and Jolie die, right? Nope. The agent’s boss has come from Britain to Venice in the middle of the night, found the stakeout van, and arrives just in time to give the order to shoot. Huh?! How did he find them? They didn’t even know where they were going. And why did he find them at all? Why not call when he learns about the illegal operation and have the agent arrested? And how did he even know to give the order to fire? He literally just burst into the van a second before giving the order. For all he knows, they just realized they were aiming at the wrong targets. This. . . is. . . nonsense!

And it doesn’t stop there because there’s still the twist. Actually, there are two twists. First, Jolie is an Interpol agent. Surprise! Of course, this means nothing you’ve seen up to this point makes sense anymore. Why is a deep cover agent sent after a man who owes taxes? Just seize his bank accounts (he actually draws a check for the amount owed at the end). Heck, why did they even assign a deep cover agent in the first place? It’s not like he owed the taxes until he skipped out, so Interpol assigned a deep cover agent to seduce him before he even committed the crime. Why? And why the cat and mouse game between her and Interpol? Oh, because she went rogue somewhere along the way. Then arrest her. No, let’s leave her as bait and have twenty men incompetently follow her 24/7 for over a year. Yeah, good use of resources. Also, to make the plot move, she inexplicable decides to rejoin Interpol (and they even more inexplicably agree) only for this to turn out to be a trick with no discernable purpose whatsoever. Seriously. This decision does not affect the plot in any way. It is merely something the writer thought would be cool.

Then the second twist is revealed. Guess who the boyfriend is? Yeah, that’s right. It’s Depp. This is just awful. Now we’ve added an impossible coincidence to the story. She supposedly “randomly” picks Depp out of an entire train packed with people, yet somehow she just happens to pick the guy who is really her boyfriend? Bullship! And then, despite being in close proximity to him for a day and a half while she falls deeply in movie-love, she never recognizes him? This is incredible, even if he did have plastic surgery. And do you know how they “explain” this to us? Jolie makes a particular point of mentioning that she was fooled by him having his teeth whitened and straightened. Seriously. Would that keep you from recognizing someone you love?

This film is a clinic on sloppy writing at its worst. I am being kind when I say the writer is an idiot and should have his fingers broken. This was written by someone who stole a bunch of scenes from other movies and didn’t know how to tie them together, so he just rammed them into each other. When it came time to explain the parts that made no sense, he just plopped down a line of dialog with the first explanation that came to mind. There isn’t a moment of cleverness or beauty or competence in the entire script.

I honestly don’t know what could have made this film worse? Maybe Jar Jar Binks.


Ed said...

Andrew, I saw this because I'm a Depp fan and you're right, it was horrid. There wasn't a moment I enjoyed or cared about anyone and I kept shaking saying "this doesn't make sense!"

JG said...

One of the most boring movies ever. I only lasted till the end because the hubs wouldn't turn it off. Just confirms that Depp has rendered himself incapable of playing anything other than some version of Captain Jack.

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, It got to the point of being painful to watch. Nothing happened and what did just felt so unreal and pro forma I kept thinking about turning it off. Ug.

AndrewPrice said...

JG, I am starting to wonder about Depp too. There was a point I thought he was a great actor, but then nothing he's done for many years has been any good except the Pirates movies. I don't know where he went wrong?

And you're right, this movie was just dull... pure and simple.

DUQ said...

You're right about the twist. When it happened I groaned because it just felt like something they thought would be "cool" but which didn't make any sense.

I agree with JG about Depp too. I'm having a hard time thinking of the last film I liked him in where he wasn't Captain Jack.

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, That was the first big problem I ran into -- nothing made sense. In almost every scene I would find myself doubting that what I was seeing could really happen. And it was never funny enough to be considered farce. Then the twist came along and just made everything so much more muddled because it completely undermined everything that came before it in the film -- not to mention, you see both twists coming a mile away and not because it makes sense but because it seemed like the only idea the writers could have left to keep the plot moving.

I'm having a hard time thinking of the last film where I really liked Johnny Depp in the last ten years.

Individualist said...


In my tax classes they told us that you should never try to make sense of teh tax code. the purpose of the tax code is not to sensibly report one's income but rather to collect money the way politicians want it to be collected.

Since this film is about tax evasion then it is obvious that the point of the actions in the film are to further the writer's plot and not to make sense.

Thus the movie is a perfect metaphor for the tax code in that neither make sense.

Viewed from this standpoint we should all agree that the writer is a genious at not making sense.

or something like that...........

I saw the movie but had forgotten the plot but I think your points can't aurgued with.

CrispyRice said...

OMG, I saw this movie!! I saw your headline and thought, "Never heard of it." But no! I saw this on an international flight last year and totally forgot about it.

I had the twist figured out before they passed out the 1st round of drinks, LOL. I watched it, 'cause, well, 14 hours in coach is a long time. And well, I would've said it was entertaining enough - beautiful settings, Johnny Depp (rrrrRRRRrrrr), a story even a drugged-out person on an airplane could follow. What more do you want??

I wouldn't dare to watch it on the ground without having had some sleeping meds though, I think.

Unknown said...

Andrew: After I saw it, I thought I had either had a bad day or was being hypercritical. I couldn't make head or tail out of it, and it didn't make me want to.

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, I don't think the writer had the slightest clue about taxes or finance. He didn't seem to know which agencies handle tax enforcement, how it's done, that they don't send sleeper agents to sleep with tax evaders, or that "her" money would have been seized along with his. I think the writer thought this sounded like a good premise and ran with it without having a clue how it really dealt.

It would be the equivalent of me using a cricket match as a backdrop to a story without even bothering to look up cricket on Wikipedia.

As a metaphor for the tax code though, yeah, it works. LOL!

AndrewPrice said...

Crispy, Sleeping meds is about the only way this film would really work! LOL!

As for seeing the twists, yeah, it's kind of hard not to see them. The thing is written in such a way that they almost have to be coming because everything is premised on them coming. It's really poor writing.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, It is an unpleasant, but fortunately forgettable film.

Tennessee Jed said...

who greenlighted this bomb anyway? The twist isn't so much a twist as it is something a 7th grader would come up with on a reality show called "so you think you can write screenplays?"

And what's up with Jolie and Depp. They don't need to do anything that bad at this stage of their careers

CrispyRice said...

I agree, Jed. Given that I'd watch Depp reading from the dictionary, I'd still prefer it if he made decent stuff, LOL!

We just re-watched The Ninth Gate recently. Now there is an excellent Depp movie!

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, LOL! Well said.

I agree entirely. This thing was horrid from stem to stern and should never have been made in its present form. It's actually a little stunning that no one in the production seemed to catch these blatant flaws and try to fix them? In fact, I have to wonder that even the actors didn't ask questions like: "wait a minute, why would my character do that?"

And you're right, the twist feels like something a teenager would come up with as a way to end a movie. It really is amateurish and it feels amateurish -- like they just didn't know what else to do with the film at that point.

To me, the first rule of the twist is to make sure it is organic to the story. This twist doesn't even come close to that. But even worse, this one doesn't even seem all that relevant nor is it well executed, not to mention it causes problems for the rest of the movie. So maybe the first rule of writing a twist should be "first, do no harm to the story." I would have thought that would be implicit, but I guess not.

On Depp and Jolie, I can't explain it. Their scenes honestly came across to me like two actors who disliked each other a lot and hated the idea of sharing screen time but felt they had to go through the motions.

Individualist said...

Well I dunno Andrew

I am trying to be positive here. And therefore I will state that I think the writer managed to incorporate the inspriation of the dull monotony of reading tax law into the film quite well.

At least we can give them points for that.

AndrewPrice said...

Crispy, That is my favorite Depp movie. But that was also in 1999. So was Sleepy Hollow and Pirates began in 2003. But between 1999 and the present, his record isn't very good in my book.

I think he needs to hire someone to help him pick movies.

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, I see your point. If we see this film as a hidden metaphor for the British Tax Code, played out by actors masquerading as thinly-veiled code sections, then indeed, the writer has captured the dull horror and utter confusion that is the tax code! LOL! Bravo! :)

Ed said...

Individualist, That's a great point! :D

My last favorite Depp film, other than the Capt. Jack is "Once Upon A Time In Mexico," which wasn't super but I really liked it.

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, I liked that one too, though it wasn't "great."

I just pulled up his filmography and there are a lot more misses than hits in the past decade.

Ed said...

Yeah, I just did the same. "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "Alice in Wonderland," "Sweeny Todd," "The Imaginarium of...." Not a great list.

AndrewPrice said...

I wanted to like Sweeney Todd, but it just didn't work for me. It had a couple good numbers, but overall it was the same song and same scene played out over and over. Alan Rickman was good though.

I hear Rum Diaries sucks, which wouldn't surprise me because I've never seen anything coherent from Hunter Thompson.

Doc Whoa said...

Andrew, To borrow your phrase, I wanted to like this movie so much. I love both Jolie and Depp and I thought the premise looked like a real classic old-school Hollywood international thriller. It wasn't. You've described accurately what it really was.

AndrewPrice said...

Borrow away doc!

When I first heard the concept, I thought it could be good. But the ads didn't strike me as particularly good and then the more I heard the less I like. Then the critics hated it and the film bombed. By that point, I knew something was up. Then I watched it and I understood why.

I'll tell you honestly, in hindsight, I'm not sure Jolie and Depp actually work together. They don't seem compatible somehow.

AndrewPrice said...

Also, did anyone get the sense this film had anti-American undertones? I kept noticing stupid little digs, like the cops suggesting that the criminals "must be Americans." What?!

Anonymous said...

I loved Sweeney Todd... Burton's best film since Ed Wood IMHO. :-)

As for this film, talk about a HUUUGE step down for the director, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, who directed the excellent The Lives of Others a few years earlier.

I can appreciate what they were going for in this film: an old-fashioned romantic caper à la Charade and To Catch a Thief but they failed miserably. It's beautiful to look but I agree: Depp and Jolie have zero chemistry and the twist is one of things where you say to yourself, "God, I hope that's not the twist - there must be something else!"

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I think you're right that this was intended to be a throw-back to Charade or To Catch A Thief or even The Thomas Crowne Affair, but it just never worked on any level.

In fact, watching it, I kept feeling like they had stolen scenes from various romantic films like that and then rammed them all together and then came up with the idea of using the cops to tie the story together... but it never works because it ends up being a series of vingettes rather than a full plot.

On the chemistry point, here's a question: why do you think they didn't work together? Was it that they didn't actually like each other and that came through in the acting? Or was it that they are somehow just oddly incompatible? Or was it something else?

I tend to think the biggest problem is that they were too similar. I think they both came across as snooty rich Euro-trash and they were both indifferent to the romance, and that made them entirely uninteresting on manys level and incompatible as movie-lovers go.

You like Sweeney Todd, huh? I wanted to like it, but couldn't. It was just too similar scene by scene and song by song, though there is one song I really like -- I think it's called "Joanna."

Ed said...

Andrew, I noticed a number of anti-American lines in the film. I can't remember them now, but I remember they came about every 15 minutes. Also, they weren't political, they were digs on Americans not America.

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, I had a similar sense. For a film that had nothing to do with the US, there seemed to be a steady light flow of anti-American statements. And as you say, they weren't things like "Bush is evil," they were things like "look a criminal, he must be an American." I wish I could remember the others.... but I'm not re-watching the film to find out.

It was enough that I suspect if they had been anti-Chinese comments, the Chinese government would have protested and Hollywood would have removed them.

T-Rav said...

Now that I have completed my arduous paper-writing week...

I haven't seen "The Tourist," but I read the spoilers anyway, because I had no plans of seeing this movie, ever. I saw the lame previews--even from that, it was obvious Depp and Jolie had zero chemistry--and all I saw and heard was a string of decades-old cliches and obvious plot elements. Nothing about it interested me; and I too was wondering, "He's supposed to be a teacher and he looks like that?" (Granted, I have known some odd ducks teaching high school English and art and so on, but still.)

Honestly, I think the basic problem with this is that the writers fell back into the trap of casting big-name Hollywood people for the leads and then getting lazy with the actual story, because they figured everyone would want to see it just because it had Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie in it. Well, no. I don't care about either of them, and even if I did, I'm not going to spend ten bucks on their movie if it doesn't look interesting. Sorry to disappoint.

AndrewPrice said...

Here's something interesting, from IMDB trivia:

Angelina Jolie admitted in an interview with Vogue Magazine that the only reason she agreed to do this movie was because she knew it would be a "quick shoot" in Venice, Italy.

So I guess "phoning it in" becomes a real possibility?

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Welcome back to planet Earth! I hope your papers went well. :)

I think you're right that there is an assumption that this was going to make money based on star power no matter what the script looked like, so they just ran with a horrid script without trying to fix the problems.

And I can see where the pitch would work quite nicely -- we gather a couple A list starts for a big international romance film like Charade. Bingo, we're rich.

I suspect all the rest was secondary.

And based on the quote from IMDB above, I suspect the actors also felt that they could just phone in their performance and the audiences would still come open their wallets.

It sounds like this was a film made purely to exploit a marketing pitch.

Anonymous said...

Was it that they didn't actually like each other and that came through in the acting? Or was it that they are somehow just oddly incompatible? Or was it something else?

I don't know. Chemistry is one of those things that's difficult to predict (or even create from scratch) so it's a miracle when two actors have any chemistry at all.

Judging from the IMDb trivia, this whole thing looks as if it was done as some kind of package deal (like many movies are). I don't know if Depp and Jolie are represented by the same agency but it's one of those "Get me Depp and Jolie and you've got your movie!" deals.

T-Rav said...

Andrew, they may have been good and they may have been awful, but they're over now and that's all I'm concerned about at the moment.

Yeah, I'd say "phoning it in" is the best way to describe this, on the part of everyone involved.

And while I don't generally like Ricky Gervais, I loved all the shots he took at the movie during the last Golden Globes. Even atheists get it right sometimes ;-)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I need to spend some time thinking about chemistry because I'll bet it's not as mysterious as people think. Otherwise, romance films wouldn't be so consistently successful.

I saw at IMDB that they went through a series of possible leads and directors. They should have gone with Sam Worthington (who was the last choice right before Depp). He's such a horrid piece of cardboard that adding him to this movie could literally have generated dull-concentrate.... a substance so powerful that the universe would have ground to a very boring halt the moment a single particle of the stuff came into being. ;)

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, There is definitely something to be said for being done. Now you can work on movie stuff! ;)

I didn't see the shots Gervais took at this film? He can be funny, though usually I just find him annoying.

Also, on that point, imagine my NON-surprise that they invited him back. It's all about ratings, isn't it?

ScyFyterry said...

great film! No, I'm kidding. This one stunk. Nice take down.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks ScyFyTerry, I'm glad you liked it.

Anonymous said...

Nice blog! I turned this one off halfway through.

Anonymous said...

sorry, I mean I turned the film off half way through.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Anon! Feel free to look around! :)

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