Living Through the Premiere of Off the Rails

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Delray Beach, FL –On Sunday, I gave you a sneak peek at Off the Rails, an autobiographical “coming of age” movie I made a few years ago that only got finished this year. I was in Liverpool for the European premiere, and I wasn’t looking forward to seeing it.

The last I saw, it was at the editing stage – and I saw it then in bits and pieces. This was going to be the final version, the full experience. Movies usually improve as they move through post-production, and I was hoping for a lot because I was not thrilled with what I had seen.

We got to the theater about 12:45. The film was shown in the Odeon Cinema Complex in a large mall in the center of the city. We (Steve, Belle, and I) arrived five minutes before it was scheduled to begin. Thanks to Damian, our director, who grew up in Liverpool and whose relatives were there, the theater was nearly full when we took a seat.

The movie began, and it didn’t take long for me to decide it was bad.

The story was good. The music and cinematography were very good. (Number Two Son did the music.) And Colin, the DP, is an Emmy-award winning cinematographer. So we had those things going for us. But movies are fragile things. They must be good in all of the major areas. One of those is acting. I found it to be over the top – sometimes even cringe-worthy. And the dialogue – some of the lines were too obvious and the physical dialogue (gestures) were also often too much.

The audience watched quietly for the most part. I could take nothing from that except that they didn’t laugh at a half-dozen scenes that were supposed to be funny.

Afterwards, there was a Q&A. It was well attended and lasted for nearly half an hour. All of the comments and questions were positive. Several people said they liked the story. One person liked the “chemistry” of the principal actors. At least three people praised the music. And several more talked about how “big-picture professional” it looked (i.e., the cinematography).

But this was a biased audience.

Walking back to the hotel with Steve and Belle, I grumbled about the film’s shortcomings. If everything about it had been bad, I could have written the whole affair off as an expensive exercise in vanity or a costly riddance of a bucket-list goal. But because some of it was good, I could not stop myself from focusing on the flaws.

Steve and Belle told me I was being too critical. ”The average person doesn’t notice the things you are talking about,” he said. “The average intelligent person certainly would,” I said.

When we got to the hotel, the concierge asked us where we were coming from. I told him that we’d just finished watching a movie at the Liverpool film festival that we wrote and produced. “How was it?” he wanted to know. “The trailer wasn’t bad,” I told him. “But the movie wasn’t as good as the trailer. So logically speaking, I’d have to say that the movie was bad. Some version of bad.” He thought that was funny.

Before saying goodnight, Steve told me again that I was being too critical. “I liked it,” Belle said. I shrugged my shoulders.

So Steve and Belle went to bed and I stayed up drinking a cognac and smoking a cigar on the terrace. When I settled into bed an hour or so later, I noticed that there was a text on my phone from Damian. “We won best actress,” it said. “And best movie.”

In case you didn’t see it Sunday, here’s another look at the trailer.