I finally saw The Judge today, and while I know that no one really gives a damn about my (excessively long) opinion here, I gotta put this somewhere: I came in to support Robert Downey Jr, came out loving a movie. (It’s called The Judge, maybe you’ve heard of it?)
The movie isn’t totally realistic, the plot, fairly predictable, and there’s some sap here and there, but you know what? I thought it was pretty well-balanced! There wasn’t too much, and what was there was, I believe, well-executed enough that it didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the movie at all. The emotion felt real, to me, and not forced either (surprisingly so). Everyone’s performance was spot-on. And the two Roberts together, gosh, they were good. Great to watch. They just suck you in and don’t let go. Every scene with them was magnetic to watch, and I can think of three, in particular, that really touched me.
I was honestly expecting the humour-drama balance to be off, poor, a flaw, whatever you want to call it. In my opinion, it occurred at appropriate moments, at the right intensity, and provided moments of relief, refreshment, that didn’t feel out of place at all. I also thought the funny bits were genuinely funny! And from the laughs in the theatre, others thought so too. (Some critics talking about a “recurring retractable cup” gag makes me wonder whether the movie was re-edited or something because it only happened once.)
I wouldn’t have realised how many subplots there were, had I not read a bunch of reviews complaining about them. That’s how strangely believable they seemed to me, in my state of reasonable suspended disbelief. And while they weren’t particularly needed, they didn’t feel unneeded either, although I do believe it does steal some time away from what could have been more relationship-investigating scenes, of which I simply demand more. Some of the stuff is a bit of a stretch, but not enough to make it less entertaining to me. I kind of liked one of the sub-plots that other people dislike, I thought it brought some welcome humour to the stage.
Tony Stark (or lack of thereof)
Hank Palmer felt, to me, nothing like Tony Stark (thank goodness. I love you, Tony, but I need some fresh air from Robert). In the trailers, he did, but in the movie, he did not. Not even a little. He felt like Hank Palmer. Not Tony Stark, not Robert Downey Jr. Hank Palmer. Yeah, he’s a fast-talking, witty, charismatic guy with daddy issues. But he’s not Tony Stark. I know it sounds improbable, but it happens. Being a relatively new, not hardcore, but nevertheless loving fan of Robert Downey Jr, I hadn’t been exposed to the full extent of his acting abilities, and was pleased to see more of that on display in this movie.
Length, Pace and Editing
I was sure I was going to suffer through some parts of this movie, waiting for the next interesting bit to happen while mentally estimating how much time had passed. I didn’t. I think this has a lot to do with how the movie is edited. I found it peculiar, at first, because unlike most movies I’ve seen, where they have long scenes in one setting, have a scene transition, and start another one, this movie has less scene transitions, and relatively short scenes. This is most apparent at the beginning of the movie, where scenes are so short that as they literally fade through one another, they feel like a series of snapshots – which isn’t necessarily bad, just a tad unusual, and awkward to people who aren’t used to it (like me). But it works, even though you sort of feel like you got cut off a little early and are still waiting for that nice, clear “end of scene” feeling. The snapshot feel disappears eventually, not because you stop noticing, but because it becomes a little more conventional in editing and doesn’t do it quite as much later on. But due to all of this, the pace almost feels like it’s going too quickly, in a disjointed way at first, and more appropriately later on, so the movie didn’t feel long at all, to me, because nothing drags on forever.
I would have liked a little bit more. Of what? I don’t know. I feel like there was more to do, more moments to be had, especially concerning family dynamics, my favourite, in-between all of those faded-in, faded-out scene-to-scene transitions, but the movie as it is is still good to me. It certainly made me laugh, and it made me tear up two-three times, especially during the end (and I’m really not a cryer – though someone in the theatre was, judging by all the sniffling we were hearing!). It felt very human.
Remember that every cliché is a reality for someone, and that the only difference between what feels like a cliché and what feels like reality is the execution. (Or how much of a judgmental, critical, cynical ass you’re feeling like that day. I plead guilty, on some occasions. Not this one.)
I’m actually saddened that critics didn’t like it more, just for the fact that it might dissuade other people from seeing it, like it almost did to me. As always, it’s a matter of personal opinion. I’m just sayin’, why not make your own?
In the end, it’s a simple, but enjoyable movie that doesn’t try to be anything more than that. It doesn’t ask “important” philosophical / societal / political questions designed to make its audience reflect, ponder, brood. It’s a simple film about a simply complicated thing: bonds. With other people. With places. Events. Memories. The past, and people, more people. Family. And if you can’t relate to how messed up relationships can be, then you’re one lucky son-of-somethin’. Give The Judge a shot, it might teach you a thing or two.
On the last Avengers, there’s this scene where there’s this ‘A’ which is probably 30 feet tall, and I’m looking at it, and we’re shooting in England, and I go “I need that in my office in Venice”. About two weeks ago, a wheeler showed up, I’m like “What the heck is this doing here?!” And they go, “This is the ‘A’ you asked for.” And I go, “They brought it?!” So now we have a massive Avengers ‘A’ that will be prominently placed.