I remember strolling through my college bookstore during my freshman year, leafing through just about any book I brushed against in an attempt to fill my burgeoning brain with all the world's knowledge. My fingers didn't spill over Nick McDonell's Twelve so much as they stubbed into it, and as I reflexively peeled back the front cover of the previously loved novel, I saw that a former owner had written the following on the first page: "This is a very, very horrible book." Okay, so maybe we can just call it "used." I left it there on the shelf in the hopes that I could revisit it over the course of the year and see how long it might take for someone to ignore its warning. By the time I returned the next day the book had already been sold. Evidently -- and to our collective misfortune -- that copy was not purchased by Joel Schumacher.
Schumacher's cinematic adaptation of Twelve opened last weekend to a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 4%, which suggests that the film is exactly half as good as M. Night Shymalan's The Last Airbender (8%). Even so, Twelve was accepted and then debuted at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, the star-studded and widely loathed flick quickly becoming emblematic of everything that is wrong with Robert Redford's once respectable indie happening. The film's weekend gross of $110,238 may not seem so tragic at first, but when you consider that the film opened at 231 engagements, therefore making only $477 per theater, things suddenly get grim. Very, very grim. Comparatively, The A-Team scraped together $789 per engagement, nearly doubling Twelve's take despite being in its 9th week of release. Do you know anyone who saw The A-Team this weekend? I don't even know anyone who saw The A-Team during the last 8 weeks.
Twelve is the story of attractive, affluent kids who do lots of drugs and have lots of sex. It's Bret Easton Ellis for people who feel as if Bret Easton Ellis novels don't have enough scenes of attractive, affluent kids doing lots of drugs and having lots of sex. It features a star of Gossip Girl, Julia Roberts' niece, a Culkin, and an eerily thin man who bears a slight resemblance to rap superstar 50 Cent. In his review of Twelve, Roger Ebert suggested that despite the film's flaws it was sure to perform. But there's no way Roger Ebert in all his venerable wisdom could have anticipated the juggernaut that is Cairo Time. A chaste and sluggish romantic drama about 50 year-old Patricia Clarkson bumbling around Egypt in a foggy mid-life malaise, Cairo Time made almost $13,000 more per theater than Twelve. In a related story, when a film with the word "Beezus" in the title is dwarfing your per-screen average, it's probably time to pack it in and prepare for the unrated blu-ray (seriously though, Ramona and Beezus is awesome).
So how did this happen? Was it a simple combination of bad buzz and imperceptible marketing? Was it a matter of audiences sniffing out a bomb, and is it occasionally healthy for the industry to witness something like this? I encourage you to speculate in the comments below. As for me, all I can think about in the wake of such news is that Joel Schumacher should have listened to the advice I gave him ten years ago (and by "gave him" I mean "said to my television") and gone into porn.
Now don't get me wrong, I have no interest in seeing Schumacher -- who if you squint kinda looks like the sad offspring of Sylvestor Stallone and Roman Polanski -- in any state of undress, but the man can shoot a killer sex scene when he feels like it.
And he felt like it about 15 minutes into Tigerland, which is arguably and perhaps not incidentally, also the best film he's made in *consults IMDB page* ever. Schumacher locked Colin Farrell in a dank motel room with 3 other attractive and impressively-bodied actors and came away with one of the sweatiest, grunt-laden sex scenes in recent memory. At no point on the largely somnambulent DVD commentary track is Schumacher as animated as when he's discussing the sex scene -- the awed quality of his voice suggesting that at 60 years-old he was just beginning to realize his directorial strengths. Had he succumbed to his true talents he could have spared us from the likes of Bad Company and The Number 23, and in turn introduced so many nipples into his filmography that the ones he unwisely stuck on the Batsuit might have been all but forgotten. Oh well.
If you saw Twelve, please share your thoughts below. Films that flame out so dramatically tend to have some interesting qualities about them -- if you think Twelve deserved a better fate, we'd love to hear why.