I hated Pulp Fiction the first time I saw it. The first Tarantino movie I’d ever seen was Kill Bill: Vol. 1, which is a decidedly gorier and altogether more accessible movie for an eighth grader (technically I wasn’t legally “mature enough” for either by the MPAA’s standards), although I was the only one in my grade who seemed to enjoy it. When I watched Pulp Fiction for a second (and a third and a fourth ad infinitum) viewing, it gripped me like few other movies had before or since. To this day it is still one of my all-time favorites.
Movies, especially great ones, often change from viewing to viewing, not because they are different but because we are. Though we now live in an age of Rotten Tomato blurbs and aggregated consensus, a critic’s most valued possession is still their written voice. With every review now posted quickly and then archived online, conversation on most movies usually peaks quickly when they are first released, and then dissipates just as fast. The only time afforded to looking back is the annual “Best of the Year” cluster fuck.
Even then, those lists are often formulated by reading the older reviews rather than revisiting the movies themselves. There are several movies that I have been compelled to return to, not because I loved them on the first viewing, but the opposite. Grappling with a movie can be more rewarding than outright love or hatred towards it. For whatever reason, these are 10 movies I’ve revisited and changed my mind about after my original review (which I could just as easily go back and revise).
Antichrist- Any of Lars von Trier’s movies could be on this list, but none of them are as disturbing and stubborn as this one. Few dispute that he is a gifted visual artist, but he divides the film community like few other modern directors. Some accuse him of misogyny, others of being concerned only with provocation. The first time I saw Antichrist it shook me in ways that I hadn’t really experienced with a movie before and I wasn’t really sure how to react to it. After a couple more viewings, though, I lean more on the positive side when it comes to his wildly disturbing horror show. The second half is fairly incoherent and indefensible (talking fox, etc.), but the first half is as good as anything else von Trier has done. As for the gender politics, I am of the opinion that he will always have a bigger issue with men than he does with women, though his propensity for bullying good performances out of actresses is a different story.
Cosmopolis- I saw David Cronenberg’s latest film at the 8:30 a.m. debut screening at the end of Cannes this year, and after almost two weeks of little to no sleep I wasn’t in the best mood going into the screening even though it was my most anticipated movie of the festival. After watching it again once it washed up stateside, I enjoyed it much more. Cronenberg’s tone still doesn’t mesh as well with Robert Pattinson’s dry acting as it could have, but the heavy dialogue translates exceptionally well in the hands of the rest of the cast.
Drive- Repeat viewings have the ability to enhance an experience as with the two previous films, but in the case of Drive they lessened my love. On my second and third go around with the movie, Ryan Gosling became dryer and duller and the hyper-stylized way Nicolas Winding Refn directs it becomes less and less appealing. Albert Brooks and the soundtrack remain great, though.
Hanna– Joe Wright’s intense action movie about a pre-teen spy who goes rogue was, to me, a tamer version of Kick-Ass where Hit Girl was the main character. It was kinetic and very entertaining, but it wasn’t quite as much so on a second or third time through. Wright gets almost all the intense fight and chase sequences right, but it’s in the quieter, more human moments that the movie ultimately falls short and fails to connect.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows- Everyone, even critics, are susceptible to hype. The last entry in the Harry Potter franchise (split into two parts) was thrilling, and at times gorgeously conceived. However, when the dust settles and I look back on them from a year or so later, they are considerably less interesting. They are great in the moment and competently directed, written and acted, but their luster wears off considerably with the passing of buzz.
Inglourious Basterds- I was very hard on Inglourious Basterds when it first came out, but have since come around to it despite my intense dislike of Eli Roth’s portrayal of “The Bear Jew.” Christoph Waltz is the polar acting opposite, though, giving one of the best performances in recent years as a conniving Nazi colonel. Tarantino directs the hell out of his hilariously revisionist screenplay too, indulging in his revenge and pop cultural fantasies while also being wildly entertaining. It’s much easier to get into his approach a second or third time through.
The Help– It wasn’t until The Help became overhyped and overbuzzed during Oscar season that I revisited it and realized just how whitewashed it was. I didn’t love it the first time, but I thoroughly enjoyed Viola Davis’ performance. However, honing in on her reliance on a white reporter (Emma Stone) and some uglier stereotypes, it becomes quite clear that The Help deserved much more criticism than praise.
The Royal Tenenbaums– The first Wes Anderson movie I saw was The Darjeeling Limited, and I hated it so much that I had a hard time giving any of his other movies a chance. His wonderful stop-motion take on The Fantastic Mr. Fox helped lift my spirits a little bit, but I couldn’t help but see Darjeeling’s pretensions when I watched The Royal Tenenbaums. Something about Anderson’s story of a family of wealthy geniuses compelled me to go back to it, though, and I’m glad I did. It is a hilarious and beautifully filmed novel of a movie.
True Grit- The Coen Brothers are two of the most talented American filmmakers working today, but I was quite disappointed with True Grit when it first came out. It felt awkward and inconsistently paced, and I really couldn’t get into it as much as most of their other work. Revisiting it proved to completely change my perception of it, and I now think it is a terrifically adapted movie with a fantastic performance from Hailee Steinfeld.
V for Vendetta– This movie was one of the first movies I ever analyzed heavily in high school, so I thought very highly of it until recently. Now whenever I watch it, I can’t help but see through all its cheesiness and Natalie Portman’s over-the-top acting/accent. It was a somewhat sad day when I realized that V for Vendetta wasn’t what it used to be to me, but, then again, I’m glad I woke up.