Friday, October 21, 2011

The Stupidest Lawsuit in Movie History: Drive Sued for Consumer Fraud

So, a Detroit woman is suing the studio behind the movie Drive, because she saw a trailer for it while attending The Debt, and decided to go see the movie. She expected the movie to be akin to the Fast and the Furious movies, and instead got a dark, highly stylized, highly violent, slower paced film, that she also claims was grossly anti-Semitic – essentially because, in her mind, Albert Brooks and Ron Perelman, both clearly Jewish, played one dimensional villains, and the whole movie was essentially about the Christian Ryan Gosling, having to kill the evil Jews. She saw the movie as an allegory about the “Jewish threat”, and how Christians would be justified in killing them.

A couple of things strike me as stupid in this lawsuit. First of all, as far as I know, the USA still has the First Amendment, which guarantees you the right to expose any belief system you want to. You have freedom of speech. So even if Drive was the most anti-Semitic movie in history, you don’t have a case there. You’re allowed to be an anti-Semite if you want to be.

But I don’t think Drive is anti-Semitic at all. Yes, Albert Brooks is clearly Jewish in the movie (Albert Brooks is clearly Jewish in every one of his movies, except for Finding Nemo and The Simpsons Movie), and yes, he is evil. And Ron Perelman is also clearly Jewish and evil. But how you go from having a couple of evil characters who are Jewish, to being an anti-Semitic movie, I have no idea. How the plaintiff identified Ryan Gosling as a Christian in the movie is also a reach. What about this guy, who isn’t even given a name, and barely speaks, screams Christian to the plaintiff? Apparently, a shot where The Driver is standing in front a crucifix in it, but that’s reaching, is it not? And who says that Ryan Gosling’s character in the film is really a hero anyway? The movie is a pastiche or old film noir tropes, 1980s action movies, and John Hughes films (according to Gosling, and the music cues kind of back him up on that). The whole point of film noir however, is that there are no heroes left. And as for 1980s action movie, Drive is in line with something like William Friedkin’s underrated To Live and Die in L.A. – and William Peterson’s cop in that film is at least morally suspect, if not as bad as the guys he chases down. As is Gosling here. He kills, maims, tortures, etc. This isn’t Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones here. I wasn’t even going to mention that director Nicholas Winding Refn is Jewish, because Jews can be anti-Semitic as well (as evidenced by Ryan Gosling’s breakthrough performance in The Believer – which if you haven’t seen, you should), but decided to throw that out there as well.

I think the more interesting issue here is the charge of consumer fraud, by alleging the trailer for the movie misrepresents the movie itself. The issue is interesting, but I don’t think you should be able to sue for it. But apparently, the plaintiff thought that the preview sold Drive as a movie like The Fast and the Furious – ie an entertaining, fun heist film with cars – and not what it was – in the plaintiffs mind an ultraviolent, anti-Semitic film. (Why, by the way, is she also not suing The Debt, the movie she saw the trailer for Drive while attending. That film is pretty damn violent itself, with disturbing images of suicide, murder and torture – and the Jewish characters in the movie are hardly “heroes” since they lied about what they did, and have reaped the benefits of that lie for decades).

First of all, I don’t think you can sue for this, but it is true that sometimes movies sell one movie and then deliver another. You do this by selecting certain scenes in presenting them in a certain way. There have been times when I walked out of a movie wondering why it was so incredibly different than the trailer in terms of style and tone – hell even genre (I’ve seen some very serious films, with a few comedic moments advertised as comedies for example). Editing trailers is an art form unto itself.

As for Drive itself, there is no question that the editing in the trailer is faster than the editing in the movie itself. But that, to me anyway, doesn’t mean all that much. If you watch the trailer for Drive, you do see more dialogue than you would expect in a Fast and Furious movie. You also get indications that the film is violent – Ryan Gosling is wielding a hammer in one moment for example and if you’re hit with a hammer, it ain’t pretty. And you also know that Albert Brooks is 1) Jewish and 2) the bad guy from the trailer as well. They overall tone of the trailer is actually pretty damn close to the movie itself. There is no scene in the trailer that isn’t in the movie. So no, the trailer doesn’t tell you everything about Drive – it can’t. It’s a trailer. If it told you everything, it would be the movie.

Not only that but the movie is rated R for “strong brutal bloody violence” and that warning would be on display in any theater showing the movie, so I’m not sure the plaintiff can cry foul. Every review of the film (including my own) describes the film as being extremely violent. Doesn’t the consumer have some responsibility to educate themselves before buying a product?

And even if she can cry foul, why should be entitled to anything more than a refund of her $10 to see the damned movie itself? What else can she possibly claim that she has lost by spending her time watching Drive?

If Drive is still playing in a theater near you, I urge you to go see the movie yourself In my opinion, it is one of the very best films and damn well should receive multiple Oscar nominations, especially for Albert Brooks’ brilliant supporting performance. If it doesn’t, part of that may be contributable to this silly, nuance lawsuit that has garnered more attention than it’s worth. Hell, if he isn’t nominated, maybe Brooks should sue the plaintiff, claiming “pain and suffering” because her lawsuit cost him an Oscar nomination. It would be about as valid as the suit she’s filed.

No comments:

Post a Comment