Staying In is a weekly Reverse Shot series that focuses on films our writers have viewed at home through all forms of digital distribution, from cable on demand to downloads to instant streaming. With Staying In, we hope to expand our ideas on film watching and criticism by getting out of our comfort zone—the theater.
The Other Woman
Dir. Don Roos, 2011, U.S.
viewed via On Demand (IFC in Theaters)
Tuning in to a movie at home has always come with a set of concerns about the “proper” way to watch. Lights on or off? If and when to pause appropriately? To snack or not to snack? Chit-chat or silence? We’ve not only had to make our home viewing optimal, we also have had to implicitly compete with the theatrical experience. This competition is made literal by the day-and-date on-demand cable model taken up by such distributors as Magnolia and IFC. At this point, there may be more millennial at-home viewing methods than we can shake a stick (or a Wii wand) at, but one thing that most of them—Netflix Instant, Hulu Plus, and other online streaming sites; free audiovisual archives; films as downloadable files—have in common is that the selections usually comprise some form of back catalogue, a more instantly gratifying update of a video store. First-run on-demand is something else entirely: these titles are often hot off the presses. The same movie available to watch in the comfort and quiet of your own living room is, at least for those living in relatively urban areas, playing down the street at the art-house theater.
Thanks to on-demand now one can experience Ong-bak: Thai Warrior mercifully away from the glow of other people’s cell phones (but happily with your own laptop or phone well within reach should you fail to be dazzled). This most appealing of the overwhelming panoply of options for staying in with movies is not only convenient but also feels like a privilege, as though you’ve earned the right to see these images first. Yet with such power comes responsibility: what to choose? What is the right kind of film to select for a 37-inch screen if you have the possibility of watching it the way “it was meant to be seen”? Do these things matter, or are these concerns simply the vestiges of an outmoded cinephile like myself?
When scanning through my options the other night for a movie to order on demand, the options were few but eclectic: Bollywood and Spanish-language selections of course, but also titles from the U.S. indie scene, the New Korean canon, and the bottomless Asian action stockpile. Though the freedom to make any of them appear with just a flick of the wrist was somewhat exhilarating, I felt the need to watch something that would feel properly TV-sized, whatever that means. So, bypassing Im Sang-soo’s The Housemaid (the visual textures of which I rashly assumed would be better served at the local IFC Center) and Aaron Katz’s Cold Weather (which, though perhaps “small” enough for the couch, surely has a glacial pacing that might demand the unwavering attention I could give it in a theater), I settled upon Don Roos’s Natalie Portman vehicle The Other Woman, which promised to make for an appealingly middlebrow hour and a half in front of the tube (may I still call it that?), and which, in description, reminded me of all of those 1980s and early 1990s female-centric domestic dramedies studios used to churn out that were ever only available to me in home-video format, such as Bud Yorkin’s Twice in a Lifetime or Leonard Nimoy’s The Good Mother.
The movie was miserable, but the choice was perfect . . . Continue reading.