I waited a while, because I’m always suspicious of a movie that features a person holding a gun on its promotional posters. Nonetheless, I kept reading positive reviews of The Constant Gardener, so I put it on my Netflix cue earlier this year. Last week, it finally arrived at the top of my queue, and last night, I started to watch it.
I only made it a little more than 30 minutes into the movie. Why? The Constant Gardener was filled with constant mumbling. I could only understand half the sentences that were being spoken by the characters on the screen. Was that on purpose, so that I would lean in close and pay extra attention? I don’t know, and I don’t care. I don’t like taking part in conversations in which I can’t understand what someone else is saying to me, so why would I want to watch a movie that can’t communicate clearly?
From what I saw, The Constant Gardener seemed to be trying to set up a mystery that would keep the viewer’s attention. A good mystery is created, however, through the manipulation of our perceptions and assumptions, not just by making it hard to hear what’s going on.
I turned The Constant Gardener off after about half an hour without particularly caring that I would never know what happened to the characters. That, I think, is a good operational definition of a bad movie.