This was a blog I wrote for the Fourth of July, and I meant to post it on the website for my horror podcast A Blumhouse Divided. It didn’t make it up there, but let’s not let it go to waste.
Ashlee had an overnight business trip in Ogunquit, Maine the other week, and I got to tag along. Her schedule was packed, which left me with a lot of time to wander a classic New England Beach town. When I saw the local theater was playing Jaws, I knew what my evening plans were.
Yeah, I had never watched Steven Spielberg’s Jaws from beginning to end. The ride was always one of my favorites at Universal Studios, but I’d only caught the movie on TV. There was never going to be a better time to fix that than an old theater by the ocean.
The Leavitt Theatre is a classic theater from the 1920s, but it’s been renovated and modernized into a cool hangout with drinks and food in a lounge on the balcony, while the theater itself was preserved. It’s a great compromise between old and new theater experiences. I had a beer while I watched the theater fill with families. It was clear I wasn’t the only one seeing the movie for the first time.
Brian Collins wrote about seeing Jaws with first time viewers, and it’s funny how universal that experience is. Teenage boys all around me were checking out their phones or giggling at the opening shots. But when that first kill happens, everyone shut up and leaned in.
I know now why Jaws is a perfect movie. Seeing the challenges of Fourth of July weekend and these shark attacks through Chief Brody’s eyes is the best way to go on this ride. Oceanographer Matt Hooper is a charming foil for Brody, and their chemistry gives the movie a good vibe. You totally want to get drunk on a beer glass full of red wine and hunt for sharks with these two. Quint rounds out our trio of adventurers with experience, roguishness, and a boat that just isn’t big enough for the monstrous shark they face together.
When I had only seen this movie in pieces, I always thought Jaws was about money and politics getting in the way of doing the right thing. But while Mayor Vaughn is a dopey, dangerous real estate tycoon turned politician who makes for a great villain even today, he’s just another challenge on their way to facing down the shark at sea.
Jaws is about three dudes combining their skills and knowledge to face an impossible task. I think the best movies don’t just make you want to hang out with the characters, they let you actually hang out with them. The scene below deck where Brody, Hooper, and Quint drink and tell stories about their injuries is one of my favorite scenes in film (even when I hadn’t seen the whole movie!), and it’s a perfectly placed calm before the storm.
If you haven’t seen Jaws before (I can’t be the only one, right?), go see it in a theater this summer. This is a movie that deserves more than a small screen and commercial interruptions. It needs a crowd to laugh and scream and cheer.
Have a happy Fourth of July, even if you’re afraid to go back in the water!
3 July 2018