The average film runs 90 to 220 minutes, begins with the set up of the plot and ends with resolution at the climax. In the middle of the film the character develops as the plot advances. If the character is required to undergo a transformation, it’s often portrayed by a series of short scenes accompanied by the appropriate “things are finally coming together” music.
While watching movies, during the things-are-coming-together footage, my rational brain often thinks, “Well, they’re really glossing over reality now.” My emotional brain, however, feels pretty satisfied. Finally the character has committed to a direction and is making it happen. Everything I’ve wanted for the character is coming true in one minute of a pop song.
It’s satisfying to gloss over the middle because it’s generally not very interesting. Seeing the drama of the events that lead up to the life-changing decision fulfills our desire to be told a story. Seeing the resolution fulfills our desire to know how the story ends. But watching the character sit in traffic to get to the lab to order a veggie wrap for lunch to get sleepy in the afternoon to get a cup of coffee to sit in traffic to stop by the grocery store and dry cleaner to give the kids a bath and clean the spot on the carpet where the cat threw up isn’t very interesting. So screenwriters and directors leave out, compress, and accelerate all that, so we can get to the next interesting part of the story – when the main character wins the Nobel Prize.
Screenwriters and directors deceive us for our own enjoyment, but also out of necessity. The boring part is the main part – the part that takes up the most time, a long time. Transformation is slow. It’s full of set-backs and times when things are moving so slowly you question if things are transforming at all.
Until “Working 9 to 5” starts being pumped in through an imaginary speaker system as you try to stay awake in yet another boring meeting and answer the same question your boss has already asked you, have patience; believe it or not, you very well may be living one of those moments that could be compressed in one minute of a pop song.