The Critic

I haven’t cared about birthdays since I was nineteen, and that was only because I could legally start drinking. As I turn twenty-three, though, I find myself back in a relationship with someone who likes to put on a clinic when it comes to caring about things like this. We meet up at Yorkdale mall to watch a movie. She shows up with a bunch of gifts she spent the whole day getting for me, even though I told her she didn’t have to get me anything. I’m totally content to just watch a movie with her. We file in to watch Kingsman: The Secret Service.

(I’m about to find out that was a fuck-awful choice. We’d heard it was a great movie — that was the general buzz about it. But, on my way to the theatre I listened to a podcast in which one of my favourite writers described it as a toxically bereft film about nothing at all. While that planted the seed of doubt in my head about the buzz, it didn’t prepare me for how completely toxic and absolutely bereft that stupid excuse for a movie really is.)

We sit down as the previews begin. She insists I start opening my presents immediately. The gifts are small — her goal was really just to amass a bunch of cutesy stuff to present in one grand gesture. I love all of it. There’s a reversible belt I’ll use every day from here on out; there’s novelty drumstick pencils; there’s a Lego kit of the Ghostbusters Cadillac; and there’s the double-decker couch from The Lego Movie. I especially love this last gift, because even though I’m turning twenty-three I can watch that movie over and over again.

(My own personal hell would be watching Kingsman over and over again. The movie starts up and we’re already at a loss. There’s not a single character in site with enough depth to make them relatable. Like a poorly written sitcom, the “joke” is that everyone’s an asshole. Tonally the movie can’t seem to properly balance comedy and drama in a way that makes either fully engrossing. Sure, the movie looks pretty, but all that means is that a disproportionate amount of time and effort went into making this movie look like the next James Bond. It still plays out like some high school kid’s C+ drama class script.)

Halfway through the film the screen goes black and the audio stops. We check our phones to find out there’s a snowstorm going on, which caused a brief brownout. The movie starts back up again, from thirty minutes before the point it cut out. She and I groan in annoyance.

(“Annoyance” might be too light a word. Nothing that’s taken place on the screen is worthy of any joy. The fight in the pub? I’m not interested in the director being indulged in his weird power fantasy. The tests at the academy? I was rooting for no one. Samuel L. Jackson’s take on the villain? I laughed when I wasn’t supposed to and rolled my eyes the rest of the time. The fight at the church was fun, sure, but like a weak handjob at the end of a stale date, it’s poor compensation. Even the biggest jokes in the movie fell flat; the rest of the movie did nothing to set up “We can do eet in ze asshole?” for any response from me other than a bewildered look of, What the fuck? Was that a joke? You’re going for a joke now? You’re going for that joke?)

The movie cuts out again with no indication of coming back. Like divine intervention, it seems the storm has finally stopped this shitfest on screen. A Cineplex employee comes in to tell us as much, and says that we can bring in our ticket stubs to re-watch this movie and the last half-hour we’ve missed.

“Does it have to be this movie?” my girlfriend asks. The rest of the audience laughs with her and I fall more in love. The Cineplex employee laughs, too, and says it can be any movie.

(And thank fucking god that’s the case; I’ll look it up later and find out that the ending of the movie does nothing to make up for the hundred minutes of garbage preceding it. It’s more shallow stylized fight scenes, and then the final shot is a P.O.V. of anal sex. And then another fight scene is set up during the credits, but, fuck that, I’d have left before that started, snowstorm or not.)

We head back to my place, our journey doubled in time by the snow piled high in the roads. We spend that extra time talking about how we can’t see the appeal in anything we just watched. We joke about the stupidity of it all. When we get to my place we find the power outage affected my block, too. We light a candle, start building the Lego couch, and tell my mom about the ridiculous two hours we just had.

The power comes on and she decides to head home. We make plans to grab dinner tomorrow, the day of my actual birthday. Honestly, though, I don’t need it. This was all I needed; some time spent with someone I care about, who cares about me, just having dumb fun. I owe her that and more on her own birthday. Today was perfect.

(Except for that stupid fucking movie.)

Way It Was is a writing project and ongoing attempt to work through a lot of relationship related shit. Find out more about it here.

[This post was originally titled, “Colin Firth Was Okay, I Guess”, but that’s a stupid title, so, I changed it.]