The first time I saw this film, I consider to be a kind of throwaway; a crash test. I wasn’t prepared for such a lack of plot. Not that there’s an absence of plot – it is there, but it’s in the background. Of course, this isn’t the first character-driven film in the history of the universe, but what is remarkable is that I still like it.
I’m very much a plot-driven kind of guy. So the first time I saw this film, I was a little disappointed. I think we watched it again a few years back. I don’t think that my response then was particularly ecstatic either – on the one hand I knew a bit better what to expect, but I still didn’t really engage with the characters. But this third watching – I think I’ve finally really got it at last.
It’s a film about being stranded in a strange culture that you don’t understand and don’t really like, and finding support in a kindred spirit. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced this first hand – maybe that’s what the second watching was for. But now I’m equipped to absorb the atmosphere and the sense of isolation and frustration, to appreciate the excellent chemistry between Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, and to understand how, by liking each other, they learned to like themselves.
The question now is: is there anything else to get out of it if I watch it a fourth time?