Great Expectations

closePlease note: This post was published over a year ago, so please be aware that its content may not be quite so accurate anymore. Also, the format of the site has changed since it was published, so please excuse any formatting issues.

With a title like that, you would expect this post to really deliver, right? Actually, that’s what this post is all about.

Morah and I watched two lousy movies over the weekend. We were disappointed by the first and enjoyed the second. So what movies were these? The first was License to Wed, and second was Knocked Up. We knew going into both of them that they would be cheesy, dopey comedies – the kind of movies I always say require you to, “turn off your brain and laugh.”

We knew going into each of them that they wouldn’t be anything special, but we expected the outcome to be the other way around – that is, we thought we would enjoy License to Wed and dislike Knocked Up. So what happened? Why the reversal of our expectations?

It turns out, expectation has everything to do with it. Because License to Wed has Robin Williams in it, I expected the movie to be better simply by virtue of his being in it. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Not only did I hate his character, I didn’t like the way he played it (or perhaps, was directed to play it). I’ve seen Robin Williams play serious-but-funny characters before, which is what I felt this character needed. Instead, we got a performance that reminded of the coked-out Robin Williams I saw on an HBO special from the mid ’80s.

Everything I had heard about Knocked Up was that it was a terrible movie with a few funny lines, so that’s what I expected. For the most part, that’s what it was, but there were more one-liners that I expected, and some of them were so funny, that by the inciting incident, I was enjoying the film. It was still a dopey movie, but it was a dopey movie that I found to be not completely awful.

As Barry Schwartz so aptly put it, the secret to happiness is to have low expectations. When we have high expectations, things tend not to live up to them. On the other hand, when we have low expectations, as soon as something proves itself to be mediocre, we’re already getting more from it than we thought we would, and that makes us happy.

Another case of failure to live up to expectations was when Morah and I went to lunch yesterday. We like to try out new restaurants, and we thought the Herbal Essence Cafe sounded pretty good. The name should have warned us. The décor was disjointed at best. A saltwater fish tank mixed with Asian-inspired table settings, all of which was accented by African masks. The music wasn’t any better. ’60s rock was followed by ’80s pop, and I gave up on listening when Who Let the Dogs Out came on. Seriously. In a café. If they had looked around, they might have noticed that the majority of their patrons were senior citizens, and perhaps someone would have switched the channel over to jazz or something.

All of that should have warned us, but a co-worker recommended the food. In particular, she recommended the chicken Gorgonzola wrap, which, although it isn’t in the name, also has bacon on it. I like chicken, Gorgonzola, and bacon, so that’s what I ordered. Morah ordered one of the specials: Seafood Crêpes. They were a “crab and shrimp mix rolled into two sweetened crêpes, laid in a bed of tomato basil sauce, topped with a garlic aioli sauce and served with a Caesar salad.” Sounds good, right?

The food arrived and was extremely disappointing. My wrap was okay, but the bacon was weak, and I could hardly taste the Gorgonzola (which, if you’ve ever eaten Gorgonzola, you’ll know is odd). There was also some kind of oily liquid that dripped all over my hands. It was pretty gross.

The real disaster was Morah’s meal, however. The crêpes seemed to be prepared by someone who knew what they were doing. I was particularly worried about the them, so when I saw that they were made properly, I was hopeful. Unfortunately, the crab and shrimp mix was a little too salty, and the tomato basil sauce was a train wreck. Seafood and crêpes are both very delicate and subtle foods. The tomato basil sauce tasted like barbecue sauce! It was strong and smoky; two things that the sauce definitely shouldn’t have been.

We pondered over whether or not to send it back, but I my lunch break was running short and Morah had already eaten almost 1 entire crepe. In the end, we simply decided never to eat there again.

In this instance, we wouldn’t have enjoyed the food, even if we would have expected something awful. The difference is that, before we went in, we had high hopes. Unfortunately, the higher the hopes, the longer the fall.

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  1. It’s funny you should mention those two movies. I saw both during the same time period. I felt as though License to Wed was a Youtube type of response to Knocked Up. It tried to show up what a “good relationship” should look like. One that is wholesome and best for everybody in comparison to Knocked Up’s version of a relationship which is nothing but a mess.

    But I hated License to Wed. It felt fake and terribly cheesy. I somewhat liked Knocked Up but I still felt like it was fake in a relationship sense. It played off of gender stereotypes too much and it made me as a woman, feel like a bitch, which is not true mind you.

    Blah. I’m so unhappy with today’s comedies.

    30 Rock makes me laugh and cry in a good way.

  2. I haven’t seen either of these movies, but I can attest to the truth of the benefits of low expectations (and the perils of high expectations).

    This is part of the reason I tell people not to give me presents on xmas/birthdays/etc. I’d rather expect nothing and not be disappointed, than expect something wonderful and (potentially) ruin a holiday. (Though, this isn’t the only reason.)

    Generally, I have low or no expectations for things. I just go with the flow. If things turn out well, great, if not, they could be worse. I consider myself a fairly happy person. ^_^

    Of course, I always have too high expectations for my own work, according to my teachers and the friends who know me and the projects I work on. Nothing is ever good enough for me, and often I’m working myself to death far past the point of earning a “perfect” score. I once got in an argument with a classmate (who was also pulling a 4.0) over which of us had the higher 4.0, based on extra credit. It’s like a sickness with me. So, while I’m fairly happy in other aspects of my life, I’m frustrated as hell at my schoolwork.

  3. @Nicole – Except that License to Wed didn’t depict a “good relationship.” Even at the end, those two shouldn’t have gotten married. They have major communication issues, and many of the problems brought up over the course of the film are not resolved by the time they get married.

    I think, more than anything, that’s what I didn’t like about the movie: the end of the movie gives you a happy, “everything is perfect,” feeling, but it isn’t! Their relationship is a terrible example, yet it’s being lauded as something toward which to aspire.

  4. That’ll teach you to never eat at a restaurant named after an orgasmic shampoo!

    Both Emily and I really enjoyed Knocked Up. I think Judd Apatow is an excellent writer/director. While I didn’t enjoy it as much as 40 Year Old Virgin, it was still good. I avoided License to Wed because I could tell that it would be a disappointment.

    We had a similar experience with low expectations when we rented the British musical Once. We weren’t sure what to expect, but didn’t think it would be that good. But it’s an excellent movie with good music (I’m listening to the soundtrack right now) and a great love story.

  5. Damnit, Mike! You’ve built up our expectations! If we watch it now, we could be disappointed.

  6. I try not to recommend things to people because I know my tastes are defiantly not the same someone else’s tastes. I know there are food and films I like that most people wouldn’t enjoy. Like my chili sundae, or the movie The Cutting Edge. If I do ever recommend something it either because it’s really good or I know you well enough in regard to that thing in particular. I was reluctant to recommend Knocked Up to anyone. I really liked it but I also seem to have a similar sense of humor as Judd Apatow and I think dirty, dirty thought about Paul Rudd (ever since I saw him as Curby on Sisters). I knew that most people wouldn’t think it was as good as I did and I’m ok with that. Although if you did like and you are a Judd Apatow fan I do recommend one of his short lived TV series Undeclared, it was pretty bitchin’.

  7. LG

    I’m with Mike – if I ate at that restaurant, I’d expect to either have a great orgasm or everything to taste like fruity shampoo.

    I liked Knocked Up quite a bit because I didn’t expect much out of it, but didn’t even see License to Wed because I can’t stand Robin Williams anymore. I also love the guy that plays Jim from “The Office” and didn’t want to ruin that by seeing a stupid movie. Sounds like it was the right choice.

  8. Phoenix, I’m sure you’d hate Once. Does that make you feel better?

  9. Super Bowl XLIII Ads

    Yesterday, my coworker Shawn posted his thoughts about this year’s Super Bowl ads. Considering the ads are half the reason I watch the Super Bowl (the other half being so we can throw a sweet party), I wanted to add…

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