by The Awl
I was tardy for Adria’s 24th birthday celebration at The Golden Unicorn, an endearingly tacky dim-sum restaurant in Chinatown. To celebrate her somewhat belated transition towards a no-training-wheels adulthood (successful acquisition of an affordable apartment and a job away from coffee machines and people who want their bagels scooped out), she had decided to throw a large party.
My public excuse for my tardiness was “getting lost,” but privately the truth was linked to my inability to leave my apartment in time. One of Adria’s birthday presents was the shaving of my beard, leaving a gross moustache reminiscent of Nintendo’s Mario Bros or 70s gay porn. This DIY present contributed to my lateness. The reason my public humiliation as a stache-wearer would give her joy is rooted to the beginning of our friendship: I had made a joke about her carb-consumption at a fancy literary party for the 2010 National Book Award Awards. I felt comfortable making a callous joke only because there was no way she would be offended, in my head. Then I joked about her literary journal totebag, as she loudly announced: “Elias, you don’t know me well enough to say that!”
Since then, we have gotten to know each other very well. So when Adria expressed her wish to watch a film at the cinema on her birthday, I immediately agreed. The circumstances gave her full liberty to choose the film, and soon enough I was trying to place 3-D glasses on top of my prescription glasses, in anticipation of the film Gravity, an outer-space thriller named in honor of the physical force.
“What an experience!” is the consensus of the dithyrambic reviews the film has garnered. Starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, and with Alfonso Cuarón on the director’s spaceship, it was the opposite of experience, as least as we live it.
A couple of years ago, when a terrible break-up left me desperate to fill up all of my newfound free time with social interaction, I went over to a friend’s house and watched him play Grand Theft Auto. After I saw him drive through a bunch of beautifully-designed streets, rob some girls with digits-in-all-the-right-places, and shoot a rocket launcher at a fleet of cop cars, I went home. I learned a valuable lesson that mind-numbing night: No matter how perfectly-orchestrated the sound, no matter how artistically-chiseled the graphics, no matter how hair-trigger the gameplay, watching someone else play a video game is boring.
That is exactly what watching Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity is like.
There’s no story to follow, no characters to care about, and nothing of substance to learn about space travel seeing as it’s basically one giant “artistic license” to get Sandra Bullock to walk around in her underwear for awhile. The whole movie-going experience — which costs me $18 bucks for IMAX 3D — is the same thing as going over to Alfonso’s house and watching him play a version of Tomb Raider that somehow incorporates the icy game controls of NHL’94 — but even more boring than that.
Here’s the plot: Big Screen Actor flings around like a pinball, grabs ahold of another Big Screen Actor, almost runs out of air, gets knocked into something else, grabs ahold of something, performs some function that isn’t made entirely clear to get home, almost runs out of air again, has something bad happen to him, pinballs again through space, runs out of air again, pinballs again, gets low on oxygen, and then flies back down to Earth. As my ladyfriend said exiting the theater, “it’s Mr. Bean in Space.”