30 September 2018 | llunkhead
A sensitive look at the human condition
Satellite Beach is not perfect, yet it is unquestionably good. Presented with great modesty as a comic short, it sure doesn't fail to entertain and has some funny scenes, but it also has a lot more to offer. Comedy is just an external layer. Peel it and you will find a rich subtext.
Ultimately, Satellite Beach is about the human condition. Deep down we all have a kernel of vulnerability and solitude and longing to be connected and part of something. And this is why we all like, from time to time, to toy with the idea of having a bigger life. Maybe we even like to pretend we are "more" and "better" than who we actually are. Until something or someone comes to remind us that it's all in our head. "Felt good to be part of something great...", says Warren Flowers (Luke Wilson's character) in a voice-over and isn't that true for all of us? We're all Warren, in a way.
The short is imbued with melancholy. We see people and things passing by or aircraft flying in the sky. They draw near and they part in the blink of an eye or they are simply out of reach, so Warren is always alone, even when he is among the crowd. Yet, he has this sort of endearing optimism that sustains him, which is simply heartbreaking. The voice-over, the colors, the soundtrack: each element conveys a feeling of quiet sadness.
It would have been easy to ridicule Warren, making him nothing more than a laughing stock, and probably that approach could have provided plenty of hilarious scenes. But then Satellite Beach would have been nothing more than a very funny short. Luckily, Luke Wilson resisted the temptation and decided to put himself in Warren's shoes and see the story through his eyes. This is not surprising at all, considering that in his best performances Wilson has always shown a deep human respect for his characters, rejecting cynicism and avoiding unnecessary exploitation of their emotion. Although usually underrated, Wilson is a talented actor and here he has shown that he can be equally light handed and sensitive as a writer and a director too. In my opinion, the main merit of Satellite Beach is being restrained but still touching, that is to say, quintessential Luke Wilson.