This works, one hundred percent of the time, because it breathes life into empty space. This works because you cannot help but use split-second silence to project what you think will happen next.
How do you direct a great movie? By creating a tension that makes everything else in the audience’s life irrelevant. Sorry grandma, I can’t answer your call. Bill Murray and Scarlet Johansson are having a moment.
But we don’t speak like this. We don’t like empty space. We don’t like silence. Silence is scary. Silence is awkward. We don’t like awkward. Awkward is a signal that who we’re speaking to doesn’t find us interesting. And so we hardly give the other person enough time to finish speaking before we chime in with our half-baked brilliant insight.
So are the actors trying to imitate how people actually speak?
Or are we trying to imitate actors?