Yesterday evening we watched Kinky Boots, a film that tries too hard to be in the vein of recentish British comedies such as The Full Monty, Waking Ned or Saving Grace. It wasn’t exactly a bad film, it was simply deeply mediocre, which may be even worse… Even Chiwetel Ejiofor, playing the transvestite Lola, couldn’t save this film which clearly believed itself more charming that it actually was.
However, much worse were the trailers before the main attraction, all of them for films that proclaimed themselves to be “Based on a true story” in a deep, authoritative trailer voice. What worries me even more is that there’s obviously an audience for movies that make that claim for themselves. Are there really so many people who think that the seal of Factuality(tm) makes a movie better?
I’ve always thought that a story is elevated simply by itself, by the strength of the storytelling. A badly told, hackneyed story isn’t miraculously made less so by suggesting that it’s based on something that really happened – and let’s face it, realistically speaking there’s precious little left of the original facts by the time the film makes it to movie (or, in this case, television) screens. A great, well written and acted story, on the other hand, isn’t somehow worth less (or indeed worthless) because it is made up.
Perhaps this is just me being an arrogant ex-literary scholar, but I actively resent this attitude that there’s a clear cut division between fact and fiction. There’s truth in completely made up stories, especially emotional truth, if the storyteller knows what he’s doing; and there’s probably no genre that is as fictionalised as autobiography, which also tends to live off the claim that “This really happened, man!”
As it is, unless a film is written, directed and acted by talented people, the dreaded label “Based on a true story” is often reason enough for me to give it wide berth. If some pretend factuality is all a movie has has going for it, count me out.
But I would be a git if I just left you with this crabby, cranky monologue – so, as promised, here’s some more Tex Avery, supplemented by a Bill Plympton short. I love the malleability of the human, or lupine, body in the cartoons done by those two – and I love the absurdism and silliness. How needs stories based on real life if you can have cats in the shape of milk bottles and eyeballs literally popping out of a horny wolf’s head at some red hot riding hood?