When I first saw the cast of stars, I fully expected quite a bit of comedy. I also had some trepidation and fear that birders would catch the brunt of the comedic force of Hollywood. Thankfully, director David Frankel had told me the truth. He really loved the book and wanted to represent it well.
When I read the script the first time, I was a bit surprised. Firstly, I did not realize it was going to be a fictional representation. Secondly, it had far less comedy than I expected initially. It painted birders as real people dealing with real passion in a real world. I had to read it again and then I realized it was better than the first time around. My own preconceived ideas had colored my ability to properly evaluate it with the first pass.
I read the script a couple more times before flying out to Vancouver to be on the set. I watched the filming of the movie for 3 weeks. I got to meet all 3 stars, Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson. This team is gifted in comedy and I felt they had a good chemistry together. I thought that although the script was fictional that it did a reasonable job of capturing the essence of the book. I was really quite optimistic that it would do well–or at least could do well. Some of the actors I talked to really liked the script. The general sentiment was one of anticipation.
I got to experience the amount of work and effort that went into movie-making. I gained a lot more respect for the actors and the daily pressures and hardships that they faced each day in inclement weather and long days. The movie crew was pleased to have me on set. They told me that it gave them more motivation getting to see one of the real characters that made this story possible. There were several birders who were a part of the movie crew and everyone seemed to have a great amount of respect for the story behind the written version of The Big Year.
When I left the set I was reasonably pleased. More of my changes and recommendations had been implemented than I expected. There were still many errors, but I felt we had reached a place that would at least be acceptable to birders s and still be understandable to the general public. I was really hopeful.
I did not get to see the movie until the advanced screening on October 10 in Richmond Heights, OH. I was quite pleased overall. There were only a handful of birding cringe moments and many things that had been added in post editing. And many scenes had been cut, too. My first time through I have to say even I had expected more humor–a bit more comedy than I witnessed. Still there were laughs and a few chuckles and many places that made me smile. It was lighthearted and endearing.
My biggest problem with the movie in my first viewing was that I expected more laughs and more comedy even though I had already read the script. What built my expectations? The marketing of the film. They sold me on the comedy of the 3 stars. I had seen a few scenes being made the previous year. I had imagined in my mind that they had added a lot to the script. But I was wrong. They stayed pretty true to the script. And truth be told, these comedic stars actually pulled off more dramatic acting than comedy. I certainly did not see that coming. Now that I have seen it 5 times, I can say they pulled off a rather nice job of character acting interspersed with comedy. It’s really more a drama-comedy than a comedy.
And there is where I think the marketing for the movie fell flat. I was mildly surprised. Imagine what happened to the public. I think that the promotion of huge comedic potential and then delivering with more of a drama proved to be detrimental to its performance in the theater.
Admittedly, I am no movie critic. And this is not typically the kind of movie that I would choose to watch (a drama-comedy). I often watch movies to escape reality, not experience it. I enjoy a good action/adventure movie or a good thriller. The Big Year falls into a “good date movie” in my opinion. The cool thing about this movie? Even to me I thought this movie stood on its own merit. Ok. I am biased with birding and I am INCREDIBLY biased about movies that I am involved with. <wide grin> But I think I would have been surprised pleasantly by this movie even if I hadn’t been involved with the movie or with birding. Still, that is just my opinion and it is impossible for me to give an objective opinion about something so hypothetical.
I enjoyed some of the elements of the script and I felt the actors and actresses all did an excellent job. I even enjoyed Jack Black’s portrayal of me. There were so many actors that there was no way to allow development of every character. Even with bit parts, the stellar cast pulled its weight with believable performances.
Thanks to everyone who’s gone to the theater. I applaud Hollywood’s effort to capture the essence of the book, The Big Year, by Mark Obmascik. It was more than I expected. And the cinematography was phenomenal! I loved being in the Vancouver area with its stunning mountains and proximity to the placid Pacific Ocean.
Overall, I give the movie 3.5 stars out of 5. We’ll have some more fun with the birds and songs and calls in the movie at a later time. Out of curiosity, has anyone taken a non birder to this movie? What were their reactions like? Do you feel that this generated any interest at all in birding to the non birding viewers? All the non birders I’ve attended the movie with know me and liked the movie. I can’t say that is very fair. A completely uninitiated non birder? Now that would make me curious.
I’ll be at the movie tomorrow night, and Saturday, and several times next week, too. I am glad I’m not bored with it yet! So have you heard the Common Nighthawk? ahhaha.