Anyone who’s ever spent some time hanging around hippies has probably heard the expression “You bought the ticket, you take the ride.” Meaning that if you’ve just gone down the psychedelic rabbit hole, there’s no coming back — at least for the next eight hours or so — and you’re just going to have to roll with the talking cats and giant insects.

Any sort of trip worth having is a journey into the unknown, and lord only knows where that might take you, but the only route to wisdom lies in taking that leap. Not that this is limited to Lucy in the Sky, mind you; entering into relationships, moving abroad, changing careers, having a child, serving in the military, believing or disbelieving in a religion — these are all leaps off the edge, and each has the potential to break you, but it’s precisely that risk that makes them worthwhile.

So this is a very roundabout way of setting up a question: Why have our moviegoing choices become so safe? I will put my right hand on the good book and swear under oath that the movies, the best movies, have incredible potential to change your head, your heart, how you see the world. They are virtual experiences, exercising your empathy and imagination, opening your mind to new perspectives.

Run Time 118 minutes
Language English
Opens APRIL 8

But as PeeWee Herman once said, “Everyone has a Big But …” and the Big But here is that nobody wants to buy the ticket unless they know what the ride is going to be. We watch trailers, even though we know they’re going to spoil every good joke, every thrill, every twist in the entire movie. We read reviews where critics will walk you right up to the last reel plot-wise, as if they’re doing you some kind of favor. We watch stars on TV blathering on about their roles, and are bombarded by tweets from people who’ve been to the latest buzz-flick. It’s not uncommon these days to hear people say they feel like they’ve already seen the movie before they’ve actually seen it.

So where am I going with this? Well, that’s exactly what I thought about the makers of “Room” when I was 20 minutes into it.

“Room” had won the best actress award for Brie Larson at this year’s Oscars, but — as usual — I’d resisted reading anything about it, so I could go in fresh. Yet deep into the first act, I was lost. There was this mother, played by Larson, who looked rather waxy and disheveled, like a recovering speed freak. Then there was her 5-year-old son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay), who had girly-boy long hair, and was completely attached to his mother. They lived in a small, cramped room — not so unusual to Japanese viewers — where they take baths, have a birthday party, make breakfast, watch TV, play games, argue — all the usual parent-child bonding. Yet they remain untouched by the outside world; Jack is not sure it even exists.

Where was this going? Was it the dream of a dead child? Was it some sort of Polanski-like exercise in cinematic claustrophobia? My Spidey sense was picking up arty vibes. Was this going to be a painfully heavy-handed universal allegory of The Mother and The Child? I had no clue, and then director Lenny Abrahamson (of the lovably eccentric “Frank”) just dropped the bomb. Seriously, psychedelic drugs are nothing compared to what this movie did to my head. It’s a real-life story, but one so far beyond anything that any of us will ever experience.

Surprise, people, this is a precious commodity. In our webbed-up world of total information, it’s something we get to experience less and less of. Make the effort with this one, keep yourself rigorously uninformed. My editors are going to tear their hair out, but I’m not saying another word, except that fans of “The Truman Show” will love this as much as fans of “Winter’s Bone”.

Buy the ticket, take the ride.

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