A Mighty Heart, British director Michael Winterbottom's superb political thriller about the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, is losing its beat with audiences. Last weekend, the movie made a measly $193,281 (with per-screen averages of $1,098, compared with SiCKO, for instance, which had averages of $3,444).
Box-office numbers aren't the only indication of a film's penetration into public consciousness, but they're a pretty good indication of it. And if that's the case, even superstar Angelina Jolie couldn't get audiences to face up to the cruel realities of terrorism and torture in the world today as vividly portrayed by the film. In fact, it seems as if Jolie's relationship to the news media may have been one of the chief causes for the movie's cardiac arrest. While critics were heralding Winterbottom's spirited, fly-on-the-wall direction, urgent location-shooting and morally complex universe (not to mention Jolie's powerhouse performance), the mainstream media was fixated on a nothing-story about the actress trying to control her interviews.
As has been written elsewhere, all celebrities try to stage-manage their interviews, but in this case, journalists used the story to stonewall the serious and important aspects of the film from getting out to the public. I'm not sure what media outlet broke the story first, but Fox News' Roger Friedman was certainly one of the earliest and most outspoken to report on it. Fox News also perpetrated an outright lie -- big surprise -- that Jolie banned the right-wing outlet from a spot at the film's red-carpet premiere, which The New York Times later reported was hardly the case. But Fox's damage had already been done, and the myth was picked up across the web as fact, further obfuscating the important issues surrounding the film.
It's terribly sad when all the positive critical buzz around a film gets swallowed up by a celebrity gossip meme perpetuated by our tabloid presses, intent on pacifying Americans with meaningless dreck rather than substantive issues. And for American's willingness to buy it -- along with all those tickets to Transformers -- they are to blame, as well. If our citizenry were willing to confront the multifaceted realities of the war on terror and Mariane Pearl's message of tolerance over revenge, we might not still be in this bloody mess we're in today.