Well, I've got to be honest, I never would have expected much going forward from the goofy guy with the tooth gap, who made himself a staple of early 2000's Mad TV, when the show was at it's sharpest. Here he's proven that he's not only extremely adept at comedy, but drama as well, specifically and much more difficult, he reveals a great deal of skill at building tension, unease, and capturing horror in the mundane. The title itself "Get Out," is genius in my opinion, as it exists specifically to play with your expectations. The film wasn't really what I thought it would be. I was expecting something that was leaning more towards gritty drama, but this leans more towards horror, by far. To that effect, as a director, he knows how to get exactly what he wants from his actors, where a large part of the horror is actually based on their offbeat portrayals of emotion. He understands pacing really well too. Nothing really happens for the first 40 minutes of the film, but you're never bored, and you're never disinterested, based on the strong pacing, and engaging dialogue. That being said, I REALLY wish this wasn't just another racebait film.
Listen, I get that Jordan Peele is a black man, and as such, he wants to make films surrounding black protagonists, and maybe deal with some black issues too. Fine, there's nothing wrong with any of that, but when it reaches a point where it puts the integrity of the film into question, you've REALLY gotta put yourself in check, buddy. As per the title of this review, spoken by the lead character in the film, I've got to ask the question: "Why black people?" I'm not saying that they shouldn't have had a black protagonist, who delivered a great performance by the way. It's even fair that they had a black actor as the party guest, who ended up becoming a very crucial plot device, but did you really have to go so far as to make the servants black too? NOW we're into the realm of caricature and old school stereotyping. EVERYONE who's a victim in the film is black, because it's a conspiracy SPECIFICALLY against black people, and the reason given? "Black is in vogue," as spoken in the film. Yeah I'm sorry, but that just doesn't cut it for me. This is called racebaiting, and it's so ridiculous that it hurts the film. That's my opinion. Becoming completely and ABSOLUTELY obsessed with your own race to the point where it clouds your better judgement is a problem, and that applies to black people too, now moreso than ever.
Make no mistake about it, as a directorial debut, this film is an extremely good showcase of Jordan Peele's talent as a director, and sadly, it might not be much more than that. Why? Simply put, style over substance. If you're the type of person who can ignore the ridiculousness of the plot because you appreciate all the finer points of his directorial style, then that's just who you are, but it's not who I am. The end result is something that's a little too self-indulgent for my taste. Requiring a suspension of disbelief is all well and good, but suffice it to say, without spoiling the plot, black people will never be victims in the way that is portrayed in this film. NEVER. If you've seen the film you'll know exactly what I mean. Ultimately, does this mean that the film was completely ruined for me over this point? I don't know. I can't really see myself going in for a re-watch though. One thing I can say is I'm EXTREMELY interested to see anything else Jordan Peele puts out there in the future. I just hope he matures a little, both as a screenplay author, and as a man.
Low Stakes Hostage Caper Yielding Better Than Average Results
Let me start off by saying that I think this movie is seriously underrated, for a number of reasons, especially for a TV movie. My favorite thing about it is probably what so many people find difficult to invest in, the fact that in the end, it's such an overblown mess over something almost ridiculously trivial. The plot is pretty basic, almost threadbare even: obsessive control-freak mom wants her daughter to win a dance competition to gain an opportunity, so she has the main competition kidnapped. Sound stupid? it is, kind of. What's ridiculously trivial to you, could mean the entire world to someone with a very misplaced obsessive personality trait that borders on psychosis, and that's exactly the point! In the end you have such a maelstrom created over one woman's obsession that really amounts to nothing valid, where the ends in no way justify the means.
The Tonya Harding incident comes to mind, as the closest real life comparison I can think of, and this is a low stakes version of that. It's petty ridiculous stuff like this that pits neighbor against neighbor in the real world, and I see it all the time. Who needs a high stakes ransom movie over millions of dollars, when you have catty females risking everything so their daughters can win some stupid dance competition that may or may not result in anything remotely resembling a life changing opportunity? I like the nitty gritty. I like human frailty. I like human folly. This film is that, and the main protagonist Christina Cox captures all of that in an extremely impressive tour de force. "Are you off your freaking meds?!" ... "Yes I am, but that's not what this is about." Sums the film up perfectly. She is absolutely HATEABLE, and that's exactly what she's supposed to be: hardly a reason to slam the film itself.
The best feature of this film from a thematic point of view is its pacing combined with the subject matter. This is very much an action movie. Virtually all the dialogue is very tight, static, and plot driven. The screenplay is well-honed, and not bogged down with various plot holes, inconsistencies, or forced development. The whole kidnapping plot comes across as fairly plausible and realistic. All you're really asked to accept is an acting accomplice who's a dumb servile terrified groundskeeper, and willing to do anything he's told. Again, not that hard for me to accept, because I see those people everywhere. As it so happens, this film comes from the hand of a surprisingly seasoned director, and it shows, having taken part in the Robocop franchise, and various thrillers in his almost 50 year old resume. It turns out I've actually seen a couple of his really obscure Canadian films over the years. The guy simply understands pacing, and he has the technical skill to back it up.
This film might even be the director's swansong if not close to it. That's how much his output has slowed down over the years, but you know what? If that's the case, this isn't a bad one to go out on. You may not have deep character development, other than the main antagonist perhaps, but again, it was all for the sake of pacing, and it was the right choice, in my opinion. If they turned this subject into an overly drawn out courtroom drama, or an overwrought emotional character study about a young girl's dream to excel at dancing (eugh), then it would REALLY come across as a tawdry subject with misplaced emphasis, and completely miss the mark in capturing mundane folly driven to extremes. Again, some people may disagree, but that's what I loved about the film, which is not really something you see a lot of in movies, particularly movies with hostage taking, or home invasion themes.
I always go into these type of (one man army) movies gritting my teeth. Why? Because I'm so used to seeing them fall apart at the seams. I always EXPECT to be disappointed, and that makes the end result a little easier to handle. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of thought put into this film. It's a movie about a teen girl who takes on four criminals, ends up defying the odds, and prevailing. Not exactly a very likely scenario, or a very realistic premise, to say the least, so how do you make this into a serious drama, and not a cartoonish series of events like in "Home Alone"? It takes a bit of calculating, and I think the directors were overall successful to that end. For one, it doesn't ALL revolve around "girl vs. bad guys." Without spoiling anything, I'll say that there's some fairly complex character development that matches the plot development in a way that makes the characters' actions and motives justifiable. In the end, the scenario devolves into a bit of a free-for-all, that comes across as overall plausible. In that respect, I thought the action scenes were pretty well handled, considering.
That being said, I didn't like every choice that was made, but when you're creating this kind of story, and you "play all the variables out in your mind." to quote the Kevin James character, you have to accept that not everything can be picture perfect, or more accurately, to your liking. Something like this COULD happen in real life. Again, a bit of a long shot, but it's not that crazy either. The directors didn't bite off more than they could chew, let's say. For example, they didn't have the confidence to show you exactly how the convicts escaped, and I don't think that was a bad idea. If you can't do it convincingly, it's really just better to leave it to our imaginations. Aside from the technical aspects, and the plot development, There were a few really tense and well-written standoff scenes, which I think elevate this film just a bit above the average fare that you might get from this subgenre, most of them involving Robert Maillet who has really mastered putting that deep brooding persona on screen. Professional wrestlers tend to make good dramatic actors in films. No surprise there, because it's a large part of what they do to begin with.
Now to address the elephant in the room, either major or minor, depending on your own expectations. Kevin James as the lead antagonist... Yeah there's a bit of a trend to cast comedians in these type of serious roles, and my personal opinion, although it may not be popular, but personally, they almost always disappoint me. First of all, he's a goofy looking guy, and that's what I know him as, so boy does he feel out of place in this film. It's a shame too, because Kevin James in his standup DOES have a dark side: his angry hot-headed bits. I think the problem is he too tried to go for the dark brooding persona, and unlike Robert Maillet, it kind of misses the mark, and just comes across as a bit limp. I think it would have been a much better choice to draw from that same hot headed energy that he conveys so effectively in standup. Really that's who the character is in the first place. He makes a lot of brash poorly thought-out decisions in the film. On paper his character comes across as a complete maniac, not a cold calculating brooder. Kevin James is PERFECT for that, but he decided to do something "different." Again, don't bite off more than you can chew. I wouldn't say he ruins the film, by any means; it just ended up being the clear weak link in the chain, at least to me.
Anyway enough about Kevin; we don't need to talk about Kevin anymore. How about this new young actress, Lulu Wilson? I guess she's been in a number of horror films; this is the first one I've seen her in. She really has that borderline psychotic look locked down: pretty much fits the part perfectly. This film is a good feather in her cap as a breakaway from supernatural horror type films, and more into drama, which is what she appears to be successfully transitioning over into. She could be well on her way to being a hot new item, and it looks like soon we'll find out. More than anything though, I'm genuinely interested to see what these directors will put out in the near future, as I can come away from this film saying that my expectations were overall exceeded.
Honestly, I thought this was on the VERGE of being pretty good. Does it have limitations? Sure it does: shoestring budget parlayed into sub-par special effects, unvetted aspiring actors, overly convoluted script, awkward directing in places. All that being said, this movie does one thing which I really really like in horror films, which I seldom see: it throws a stack of characters into a panic scenario where they all separate, are fending for themselves, and slowly one by one they're pulled into the reality of the situation. It's hard to describe exactly the atmosphere I'm talking about here, but basically, a group of people who all get separated, and befall misfortunes one by one. There's a very moody atmosphere to this type of concept which I like a lot. Another film that conveyed this pretty well was "Session 9."
The director had a clear vision of what he was doing, and I think it's unfair to say that he wasn't at least semi successful. For one thing, I thought the mental disorder of the protagonist was very well handled. As someone who's been closely involved with people who suffer from extreme hallucinations, I appreciate how this plot point was worked in to synchronize with the characters around the protagonist. It really annoys me when you have a character who's dealing with this, and it's like they can flip it on and off when it's convenient, and nobody around them notices anything askew.
So, do the films strength's make up for the weaknesses? In my opinion yes. A lot of people seem to think the actors are horrible. Some of the characters come across as a little cliched, but honestly none of them bothered me that much, in terms of acting, speaking only for myself. In the end, I think there's one major point of focus which screws this film up in a bad way. The director leans towards giving it a mystery vibe rather than a thriller vibe, and as such, the plot comes across as convoluted in a way that's disconnected and distracting. The vague "Psycho" reference of the fly shows you sort of where his head was at.
If the director started out by putting everything on the table, and making it a more focused character study like say with Jack Torrence in "The Shinning", I think it would have done leaps and bounds at better selling the premise. The plot points do come across as forced and cliched, largely because the character seems too disconnected from the backstory. It's like a spy movie where the spy saves the day by manually flying a plane, or something of the sport, or just by chance, he knew the main terrorist since childhood, and thus is able to talk him into a resolution. We're supposed to take it for granted, but it comes across as very convenient and inorganic. You'd think the character himself would be a little more aware and calculating, in terms of what was unfolding but no; it comes across as an unfolding mystery to him as well, which doesn't quite fit with what's really motivating him here.
Personally, I'd have liked to see the initial abduction of the crazy religious girl, for example. Didn't really need a whole mystery around it. Just put all the cards on the table and build up that backstory; we already kind of know what's going on anyway. Taking everything into balance, I still thought the film was passable. It does just enough to be credible in its own right. You could definitely do worse, and I think this is not a bad first attempt for a fledging director. All it needed, in a phrase, was tighter execution.
Pretty Lame, Unoriginal, And Not At All Poignant Attempt At Shock Cinema
A film like this can basically be taken either one of two ways, as either poignant, or as farcical. This film definitely leans towards the latter, and ultimately for a film like this, one which relies on one single plot twist based around the raw emotions elicited by unrepentant hate-filled racism, the fact that the entire premise comes across as farcical, largely because of how forced it is, is definitely a bad thing. Honestly, the film and film premise are both so one-dimensional, that you're not even critiquing a film, but you're critiquing an idea more than anything, an extremely sophomoric one.
First of all, tattooing a man completely black from head to toe in one sitting of just a few hours... Is that even possible? Furthermore, cuts from head to toe, in a massive amount of pain and/or a massive amount of drugs to subdue the pain... Would he even be able to walk, led alone live? You might as well put a bomb in his hands, watch it explode in his face, have it turn him completely black, and call it a Warner Bros. cartoon, because that's how stupid the concept feels once you really break it down.
"What if you had a skinhead, right... but then... he ended up having completely black skin.... for some reason... WHOOOOOAAA! THE IRONY!" It's something some dumb teenager would think of as groundbreaking, but it's kind of already been done to death. There's a 1971 film called "Albino," based on a fiction novel about a racist black man who happened to be an albino, and was leading a group in Africa who went around killing white people. Obviously this attempts to invoke the same type of irony, and even in a film that's 40 years old, the premise felt stale to me, watching it. Worse still, the premise is ALWAYS forced. In "Albino," the very idea of having a persecuted class of person like an albino in Africa in a position of leader, makes no sense.
In Skin, let's take a moment to really break down the catalyst for our little token plot twist here. Guy accuses black guy of harassing his kid. He calls the black guy a n*gger, and black guy starts mouthing off. White guy and his friends beats up black guy. Black guy's friends find out "Oh no, our friend was beaten up." ... "He didn't just beat me up, he... called... me... a n*igger... and poured bleach on me." ... "Oh my GOD! Well that's it, we have to abduct him and paint him black. It's the ONLY possible solution!"
Another Scorcese Classic. The Last In A Trilogy? Let's Take A Look At The Legacy.
There's no denying that Martin Scorcese has made a lot of good films. You'd have to be a pompous windbag to say otherwise; looking at you, Peter Greenaway. That being said, to date he's only made three truly great films, in my opinion, and The Irishman is one of them. Taxi driver is a very good film, but it's also very raw, idealistic, and in so many ways, more of a reactionary statement piece, than an example of supreme storytelling. Travis Bickle is a bit of a caricature, and as such, the plot develops in a very contrived way. In short, Taxi Driver, Cape Fear, Shutter Island, The Departed, etc. are all good films, but I have major problems with all of them. The Irishman, I have very few major problems with. Again, good vs. great.
You may disagree, but to my opinion, Goodfellas is by far Scorcese's signature work. This is where he found the winning formula in biography crime dramas. All three of his entries in this genre are tight, concise, strongly character driven, and led by a masterful down to earth realism, which never feels the need to delve into over-the-top gross-out scenes, and no other living director has been able to achieve the same level of greatness in this sub-genre. In short, films like The Irishman are what he was put on this earth to make. After Goodfellas came Casino, my personal favorite in the trilogy, and very underappreciated, in my opinion. The Irishman may in fact be my second favorite Scorcese movie to date.
I really enjoy the corporate side of these dramas, and for that reason, Goodfellas just never resonated with me. Objectively speaking however, I have to say Goodfellas is probably the better movie. The pacing was just so on point, and you have far more standout scenes. If I have to crown a winner of the three, it has to be Casino, and I say this while trying to remain objective. It was by far, the more dynamic movie with Sharon Stone's character, Lester Diamond, Don Rickles, Joe Pesci the classic Italian mafioso hothead, and the country locals: so many conflicting powers and unique characters all battling over the same terrain and wealth. It was just so much the perfect cast and perfect landscape for an almost perfect film. That being said, how does the Irishman measure up?
A lot of people have said the Irishman is too slow paced, and the truth is, yes, the first hour of the movie does drag. When the movie really comes to life is when we're introduced to Jimmy Hoffa. Al Pacino by far steals the show, and manages to create the more compelling character of the cast. He worked a lot on the accent and mannerisms of the character, to the point where yes, you're still watching classic yelling bellicose Pacino, but it's an undeniably distinct character you've never seen before, who's so subtly nuanced in a way that conveys both a level of humility and meekness in the same breath as being hugely arrogant and bombastic. It's a truly brilliant performance which I think is what largely sells the movie, and is one of many major components that elevates The Irishman from coming across as a swansong from an aging director looking for one last major hit.
The question now is how do the other actors measure up? Joe Pesci's portrayal is well handled and well honed, in a way that you would only expect from a veteran actor; however, the first hour of the film, the reason why it drags, I think comes down to the fact that none of the characters up until Al Pacino's character, were compelling enough to be the driving force of the film. To my opinion, and this may be controversial, but I think Robert Deniro was hugely miscast in this film, and yeah I get it, Scorcese badly wanted to put together the legacy cast, and the title character was the most logical role if Deniro was going to be in this film, but to my opinion, to a small extent he's really not the actor that he once was; there was no need to highlight it, i.e. he would have been GREAT in a supporting role, and the title role called for someone a lot more brooding.
When I think of an actor like Lawrence Tierney, just as one preliminary example, THAT'S exactly who "the Irishman" was meant to be. I mean come on, who honestly really takes Deniro for being Irish? "Ayyy wadaya want? I'm Irish, badabing badaboom." Granted it's not QUITE on the level of Christopher Lee as Fu Manchu, but I can't deny that it was glaring enough to take me out of the movie more than a few times. That's a problem, and I say all of this in the context of having seen Deniro convincingly pull off being a subtle-spoken Jew in "Casino." Al Pacino worked a lot on his character to give him a middle America feel, whereas Deniro came across as a generic Guido gangster; it's as simple as that, a comparison that's both convenient and valuable. Most of all, you want to feel like there's something more on the other side of this deeply brooding character, something to build your anticipation during the first part of the film, but it just isn't there.
Another solution might have been to expand on Pesci's character during the first part of the film, and give him a couple scenes where he can really shine, rather than remain the mysterious power figure with an underdeveloped backstory. Again, it's a great movie, but ultimately I think the criticisms of the first part of the film being too slow-paced have some objective truth behind them. The titular character is just not as compelling as he could have been. You've also got to say that maybe Scorcese overestimated the power of anti aging technology just a bit, and the better route to take might have been to cast Deniro as old Sheeran and bring in another actor to play young Sheeran.
In the end though, when things get going, and you find yourself deeply immersed into the politics of the thing, here it very clearly becomes a true contender in Scorcese's body of work, with many standout scenes, all involving Jimmy Hoffa, aside from the fish scene, which in and of itself was brilliant. Keep in mind, all my criticisms thus far involve comparing Scorcese with Scorcese, which honestly boils down to a lot of nit picking for the sake of conversation. If this was the movie of a young new director, I'd be reviewing it in a much different context. I definitely thought the movie was great, more than just a swansong, which was my biggest fear coming into this. The question now is, will there be another? I don't think so, and I don't think there needs to be. This is it, and it's as close to the ultimate gangster movie that Scorcese always wanted to make. There was Goodfellas which was new and fresh; Casino, which presented a slight evolution, and now the Irishman which presents a bit of a de-evolution back to Goodfellas without feeling fresh.
Yes, the movie does feel stale to a degree, largely because of the legacy cast. That's not necessarily a detractor to a new audience, it just signifies a lack off separation between the past and present, and to a greater extent, a lack of evolution. This indeed was a major concern that Joe Pesci had going into this, the main reason why it was actually a bit difficult to finally get him to agree to do it, and yeah I have to say that his concerns were somewhat justified. Would it have felt stale if a new actor was brought in to play young Sheeran, similar to casting fresh-faced Ray Liotta as the starring character in Goodfellas? I think there's a good chance not, and ultimately this would have been the bolder move to take. Again, I can't stress enough how bringing in actors like Sharon Stone, Don Rickles and James woods helped give the film "Casino," such a unique feel.
More than anything, what "The Irishman" represents is a re-enactment and medley of everything that worked in the past, and worked well. Either way, regardless of all the "what ifs" and "could haves" that you can bring up, Deniro is back, starring in a classic gangster role, and you're still glad to see him, even if he feels a little out of place. It's a good screenplay, and overall well put together, but it is well over three hours long, and in the end, movies this long always run the risk of becoming tedious midway through. In my opinion, Pacino deserves an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor here, as a large part of the film's sustainability for a broader audience through those three hours, rests largely on the shoulders of his performance.
Personally I don't get that held up over the subtleties of an actor's performance. Everything I've spoken to in this regard boils down to what I view as either missed opportunities or resounding successes. All it comes down to is the difference between good and great, and there's simply no point in reviewing a Scorcese film unless you're ready to put the film to the test in defining both those terms with elements of the film itself. The Irishman, the ultimate gangster movie with the ultimate gangster cast is not perfect, but it is by far, more great than good.
Say Hello To Google's Idea Of Entertainment For Young Adults
Let's start off with an extremely important preliminary question. Why is every single side character in this movie written to be a complete and absolute d. bag with zero self-awareness? It's a bit like watching an abject commitment to failure from the word go. "We know we don't have the talent to actually be funny, so instead let's present a very stylized portrayal of what it means to be obnoxious." Louis C. K. had a really good comment about this type of "comedy" writing, which I'll attempt to paraphrase as follows: "It's arrogant too, because it comes from a sophomoric school of thinking that places its own value up on a pedestal, merely based on the fact that it's adhered to in its own circle, and accepted as a normative standard, without any real basis of comedy behind it."
All this being said, the plot of the film, the bones, if you will, is fairly sound and easy to accept for a film which SHOULD be primarily about showcasing dancing, without needlessly distracting from it. (Teenager ends up doing community service at a dance school, and ends up discovering his love of dance). Fine. Somewhat cliched, but it's fine, and more to the point, even pretty much all the micro plot points of the film are fine. It's the horrendous writing and unbelievable characters that ruin it. I thought it would be interesting to check out an original Google produced movie to see what they had to offer, and in short, it's everything you could hope an SJW oriented censorship-happy company would bring to film.
It's actually a great testament to the type of person who wants to end bullying and censor all negativity. These are people who want so badly to live in a world where everyone agrees with their personal aesthetic, which in their view should prevail eternally untested, and more to the point, unchallenged. Guess what. NOBODY thinks you're funny, and anyone who thinks your writing is cute is simply too good-natured and impressionable a person to deserve being tarnish by your authoritarian Nickelodeon universe, because artistically speaking, that's what this movie is, a Nickelodeon universe where the dopey protagonist occasionally calls one of the d. bag side characters an a. hole. Oooo. Edgy, guys. You know, something for the adults to enjoy, lest you thought this was a film targeting a child audience, and yes, there's enough sexual innuendo here to let you know that this film was ACTUALLY intended for a broader audience. Yuck...
Also, it would be remiss of me to avoid commenting on the irony of me complaining about a film being too pc oriented, when I can't even cite a direct quote from said movie, as per Amazon's contributor guidelines, who apparently are even more pc oriented than Google. YIIIIGH! ...In case you're wondering, the previous exclamation was my attempt at trying to spell out the literal sound of vomit hitting the inside of a toilet bowl, but anyway, I digress... When you hear the protagonist swear at the film's goofball of an antagonist, who much to my enjoyment looks a lot like John Snavely, aka Champ, from the highly popular DancingBear series, more than anything, all this does is highlight the fact that the way these characters act would NEVER pass in the real world, and now that we're bringing this back to the real world, and real life consequences for one's failures...
If this movie proves one thing, it proves this: bullying is not a real and serious issue that our society is facing. If it was, the people who wrote this trash would have had this particular creative aesthetic bullied out of them long before their pens ever touched paper, the point being that the characters they create would NEVER be allowed to be that obnoxious and that outspoken and confident in the real world, because they would be at the receiving end of some major kickback. Sorry, but you guys just clearly didn't grow up in the same world that I grew up in. You really have to ask how is it even possible for someone to have such an ANNOYING and obnoxious personal aesthetic, and not only have zero self-awareness, but be unleashed upon the world like a hideous deformed cyclops, by producers with even less awareness, and if you think I'm being cruel or unfair, you have NO IDEA how much I'm censoring my true feelings here. I'll probably just end up taking it out on some poor inept customer service agent later this week, so I hope you're happy, Amazon. Remember... People actually got PAID... GOOD sums of money to write this trash, and to one extent or another, they're making a career out of it. Eugh... How many ways can one person spell "vomit inducing"?
Granted, the Dancing With The Stars world does tend to embody a lot of this "positive positive double plus good" 1984 authoritarian pseudo happy energy where things are seldom challenged, and everything is GREAT. Oh no! Len Goodman gave a valid criticism! That's not good, and if it's not good, it's not positive, is it? BOOOOO! And thus trash is allowed to be presented as quality artistic expression... My family used to watch this show on a shared tv, so I'm not without battle scars, and the cameo appearance of Bruno Tonioli in this film, I think makes it a very fair point of contrast to draw up. Ultimately, in regards to fans of the show, the only target demographic worth considering really, I refuse to believe that these people are wholly without taste.
I personally don't care that much about dance. I care a LITTLE bit about the people who do care about dance, hence the lack of guilt I feel over this scathing review, and I definitely didn't expect to get out of this what they may have expected to get out of this, with them most likely coming away feeling far more short-changed than myself. To tag another reviewer's comment, in quite possibly the most ill-conceived way that I can cook up, what I realistically expected to get out of this movie was scoping out Meg Diangelis' butt, and you couldn't even let me do that in peace.
In the end, people who enjoy campy dance routines have a right to like what they like, and so do I with my animalistic butt scoping, but I'm pretty sure we can both come together over one thing, and that is to slam this film with a resounding no. I think as another fair point of contrast, I should bring up the now legendary "high school musical" series. Like this film, campy beyond belief, yet unlike this film it ACTUALLY showcases song and dance in a strong enough way for it to at least be appreciated by its target demographic on SOME artistic basis... and better shots of Ashley Tisdale's butt, to be honest. For lessons on everything that NOBODY wants, I highly recommend Dance Camp, which follows, and was conceived by the great Google standard of content etiquette. A 4.0 rating out of 10... That's what your years of content censorship amount to. Good job guys! Let's see how long you last when the free market rears it's ugly head, which does still exist, despite your countless objections to it.
Let's Talk About Vanity Projects And Vicarious Ambition...
So, I literally watched this movie just to see how bad an amateur "feelgood" movie could get, and what, if anything, it could tangibly offer, courtesy of my newly acquired Amazon Prime subscription. In that respect, it didn't let me down, and the one thing it did offer me, I'm sure to the chagrin of the director, was a rather creepy line intended to be touching, which was offered only through the director's extremely inept use of ad libbing. The grandpa says something along the lines of "You need to get to work with your boyfriend and start making babies." Granddaughter replies "I'm only thirteen years old." He replies "Never too young to start. You gotta start bringing in some money." She replies back. "You're so funny," and they embrace. Nope... Doesn't work; not in the way you intended at least. Definitely not a feelgood moment, though I still enjoyed it immensely. The film can pretty much be summed up by this one scene. In a word, INEFFECTIVE, to say the very very least, and that's only because I'm not the type who likes to find scandal in simple awkwardness.
I really was hoping that this movie would be a hidden gem, but it just isn't. This is what a movie looks like when it's not vetted by a big studio, raw and blemished by poor decisions, from recycled footage, to poor camera angles (so often the character's back is facing us when they're talking), to an array of incongruous regional accents with no developed backstory behind them, to cheating the set, to horribly executed action scenes, horrible plot points (a girl supposedly carries an injured dog that looks to be about her own weight, for half a mile, if not more). This is just a quick rundown to prove that I really am speaking to substance, as it almost feels tawdry and asinine to break down point by point everything wrong with this type of movie, in great detail.
That being said, maybe it's a little more worthwhile to lend a few words to the actors, because realistically, showcasing them is the only value this film could possibly have. At the end of the day, at worst this film serves as nothing more than a vanity project for the director, and at best, an acting reel for the young actors, chief of whom would be Isabella Blake-Thomas, who sad to say, her entire life appears to be the vanity project of her mother, a fully fledged amateur director in her own right, who keeps casting her daughter in her HORRIBLE movies. The only question is, does young Isabella have the chops for it? I don't tend to think so, in this case, both literally and figuratively. She doesn't have amazing screen presence, though she would be cute if she didn't have this really annoying tendency to mouth-breathe. All I can think of when I watch her is that line from Forest Gump "You better tuck in that lip; you're liable to get that caught on a tripwire." NO ONE tells her she's doing it, and sorry to say, but when it comes to films, that type of thing is kind of important.
If you're audacious enough to make a movie, part of your job as a director is to make your actors look good, which leads me to a serious question. Is Isabella here because of her own ambition, or is she just here to live out her mother's delusions? One thing's for sure: no one's doing her any favors. I honestly can't tell whether she's a mediocre actor, or whether it comes down to the cheesy dialogue and sloppy direction. Realistically it's probably a combination of both, where the severity of one is directly offsetting the other. Pragmatically speaking, this tends to place most of the blame on the director, as he could have solved a LOT of this. That being said, the other girl in the film, Preslee Tucker, didn't seem to need all that much help, which serves as a fairly stark contrast.
To my opinion, out of the young cast, Preslee Tucker, by far shows the most promise, and certainly has a lot more stage presence than Elisabeth. Too bad for her that her mommy isn't a wannabe director/producer. Preslee just comes across as very natural on screen, and her lines are delivered rather convincingly. On top of that, she can dance, albeit terribly worked into the actual movie, but as I've mentioned, we're beyond that now. It's a throw-away movie, but MAYBE not all the actors are throw-aways. Ultimately I don't like to see anyone fail, NOT if they're able to prove themselves. I've seen it happen, aspiring young actors clawing their way out of these types of humble beginnings. Danielle C. Ryan comes to mind. Only time will tell.
Let's start off by stating the obvious: if you like films with snappy editing and lots of action, this isn't the film for you. However, it has to be said with due consideration that the directorial style here lends itself VERY well to the subject at hand. The purpose of the film is to examine our roles in society, and in this case, the role of police officer. The film is not interested in character development or in trying to get us to empathize with the characters; it portrays the characters as tiny cogs in a massive machine, that do their job, serve their purpose, and who each play their part in the macro scheme of society as a whole. It's the examination of the free will of a machine in motion, a body let's say, where if one of its components ceases to fulfill it's designated role, then the rest comes crashing down. The film very effectively paints this type of picture in what can probably best be described as being a little bit like a documentarian approach to fiction.
Personally I generally don't mind a film that's very minimalist and slow paced. I like taking in the ambience; I like observing a moment in time captured on camera and reflecting upon the ebb and flow of the mundane. If like me, you're someone who's mind tends to wander, you probably like this style of directing too. That being said, in this film it definitely is a little TOO much. You really could do without the 5 minute roaming shots that lead into almost EVERY major scene. To me, there just aren't enough focal points in the plot progression, and not enough delivery for all the buildup. The film has specifically chosen to not allow us to empathize with the characters, and with that, there's so much less for the viewer to hang onto.
The entire film essentially is one single drawn out buildup to the climax, which is the confrontation between the protagonist and his superior, an authoritarian type who clearly enjoys making power plays, having others submit to his will, and talking down to them as if they're children, while the protagonist slowly finds his reason, his morality, and his distaste of a situation that he does not feel is right, picked apart until he barely knows who he is anymore. This is essentially my favorite type of scene in movies, long drawn out verbal exchanges over a point of conflict. This one, like the rest of the film, while effective, still comes across as a little bland to me.
In the end, it's not a bad film, and I say that largely because I can see what they were trying to show, and I understand the reasoning behind it. THAT'S not necessarily great film-making, communicating a single abstract message to the viewer, and little else. I really wish the film put some major focus on the family who was ultimately going to be affected by what may or may not be viewed as a mishandling of justice. As the viewer, we really do need something a little more to wet our appetites here, and I think exploring the human condition from different focal points is not an unreasonable way to add value. Ultimately this is just not as good as say, a film by the Dardenne brothers, or a Bruno Dumont film, though still, I would consider watching it again. That being said, I would really really have to be in the right mood.
There really is so little that this documentary does right, and so much that it does wrong, but namely, I find myself absolutely forced to give it a 1 star rating because it fails to live up to it's title, or examine its premise properly, and thus lacks any degree of insight in regards to the question. The title, and subject is not "A woman's sex drive." It's "Do women have a higher sex drive?" Higher than who? Higher than men. That means, in order to properly explore the question, you need to examine the sex drive of both men and women, more or less equally, because whether or not the question is true is completely dependent on the nature of a man's sex drive. That being said, I do not have a problem WHATSOEVER with a documentary which exclusively explores female sexuality and completely ignores male sexuality; however that's not the stated objective here, and the constant question being posed to each interview subject "Do women have a higher sex drive?" to which, by the way, there is no clear consensus given in the documentary.
Instead you have one blanket statement/assumption after another being made here, particularly in regards to male sexuality. "Men only care about seeing raw sex or a naked woman in porn; women are looking for a very special and developed aesthetic." That of course is the stereotype. It doesn't describe me though. I have a very particular aesthetic, and every male friend I know has a very particular aesthetic. I post videos/pictures of women and porn to my friends all the time, and everybody has very particular preferences. In the end, I'm perfectly willing to accept the possibility that I'm wrong or abnormal, but if that's the case, you better present me with some empirical proof. That being said, when we look at the like bars on porn streams, that is a form of empirical proof, and quite consistently the videos that get higher ratings within the categories that I like, are visually, thematically, and contextually much more developed, and those are the videos I like the most as a man, which other men seem to agree with. In light of this, I can't confidently say that men are more prone to scrape the bottom of the barrel when masturbating to porn, and neither can you.
This movie was one example after another of people running their mouths when they don't know what they're talking about. This one lady, for example, was trying to make the point that women have a higher sex drive than men, because the annual sale of female sex toys is higher than the annual sale of pornography. Ever heard of porn streaming, love? The vast vast majority of men masturbate to porn without paying for it, so it's very clear to me that you're trying to paint a picture based on what you personally want to believe, and you're willingly ignoring any data that disproves it. This one lady in particular, (the one with the horrendous lisp) I don't even think she knows what a sex drive is. She cites women being obsessed with male performers like Justin Bieber on a level that men typically don't obsess over female performers, as proof that women have a higher sex drive, for example. That's called infatuation. I know what that feeling is, because I myself have felt deeply deeply in love with people, and It's not the same thing as sexual arousal. If you think it's the same thing, it's because you have a low sex drive, have never been able to clearly identify both things separately in your mind, and are trying to reconcile the fact.
The lady who worked as the editor of Playgirl made a lot of really biased blanket statements as well. Supposedly what made the magazine unique is that it was catering to a female aesthetic. In her view, EVERY single porn entrepreneur who disagreed with her aesthetic, rather than simply wanting to cater to an existing market demand, were instead trying to suppress a growing market demand, and that eventually playgirl went bust, not because of her own failings, but because it began catering to the existing market. She couldn't CONCEIVE of the idea that there really never was a huge market demand for her own personal aesthetic. You can really take this at face value for what it is... The fact is, if you're any good as a businessman, you can actually do both: cater to an existing market, as well as tap into a new audience (if it exists in the first place). According to her, tapping into the gay market is partly what killed the magazine. Interestingly, the porn director who was interviewed later seems to directly contradict this idea, saying that women often prefer gay porn, because of the way it shows off the male body. Again, this speaks to how poor a documentary this is, because the film makers did absolutely nothing to fact check this discrepancy, or explore the subject further.
The editor of Playgirl also takes credit (by proxy) for inventing the CFNM subgenre, and characterizes it as a female oriented subgenre. There's a lot to consider there, but from what I've observed, CFNM is a very male oriented subgenre, especially if you take into account the fact that one of the most successful CFNM sites on the internet was DancingBear, and it garnered an almost strictly male audience. In fact, it was so successful in this regard, that the parent company "MorallyCorrupt" ended up producing a gay oriented spin-off to it. Why is CFNM popular amongst males though? This is common knowledge by now: because it familiarizes the female performers to the male audience (they look like the girl next door). Again, the film makers have zero insight to offer here.
One question I have is why the hell are we focusing on playgirl in the first place, and not the infinitely more successful and universal playboy, which the former is directly trying to emulate? Playboy can tell us a lot more about what ordinary people actually wanted to see, and by periphery, can do a great deal more in terms of exploring the issue of the human sex drive, be it male or female, and which one is higher. Playgirl tells us about what nobody cared about, male or female, and that's why it went bust. The subgenre she was pushing, (men being portrayed as submissive and subservient) appears to be very unpopular, and only exists in extremely niche areas on the internet today. In other words, yes there's a market for it, but it never became big. By Interviewing someone like her, all you can expect is exactly what you got, someone who's desperately trying to save face in light of her failed project. She was out of touch then, and she's out of touch now. Who cares what she has to say, especially if you're not going to cross-examine ANYTHING she says?
Another example, You have this one feminist who starts off by saying "One big historical claim is that prostitution is the world's oldest profession, but if we listen to 'herstory' it's actually widwives, and the Church principally charged midwives as witches because they had a lot of power." Ok great. First of all, why should I take your word for it, and secondly, I have no idea how you think you can prove that prostitution is not older. Also let's not ignore her entire premise that history as it's taught is biased, and that what she's saying is the objective truth, even though she cites zero historical sources. The fact is, when you use a made up word like "herstory" it directly denotes a built in bias despite the fact that you're accusing others of bias. Why can't you be objective? I don't need your stupid revisionist history if it's going to be emphatically and unapologetically biased with no evidence to back it up, thanks.
Really, What this documentary should have been titled is "Female Oriented Women Pontificating About Sexuality In An Echo Chamber," because that's all it is. A lot of blanket statements are made with very very little empirical data or statistics used to back up anything said. That's ok in the context of an individual interview (I don't necessarily expect every interview subject to come with stacks of research studies in what appears to be a casual conversation). The problem is, this film is almost entirely based on interview footage, and there comes a point where the film makers really do have to do some backup research, if they expect the audience to get anything out of this. Instead, you have these back and forth interviews where the questions and answers are clearly filmed separately and edited together very awkwardly afterwards.
Typically in documentaries like this, the interview subjects are directed to speak in a lot of full sentences, and the interviewer is cut out altogether. This works well because the answers often are then used to lead into informational backdrops, which is what this film severely lacks. Instead, what you have is a really naive looking girl asking a bunch of dopey rhetorical questions where she's repeating back what the interview subject is saying half the time, as a question. Nothing is challenged, and nothing is added by a single thing she says, and she appears to have no education whatsoever on ANY subject mentioned in this video, and not a single thought in her head about human sexuality. Hilariously at one point, she even expresses being confused at whether she does or does not have lesbian urges, to which the porn director, pretty much the only person interviewed who I actually liked, gives her this facial expression "Well I dunno. I guess you better sort yourself out." Sadly, speaking completely honestly, I get the impression that the interviewer is the director's girlfriend, who had this horrible idea for a film, and he got pressured into doing it for her. If that's the case it's a shame, because I thought his 2013 documentary was very interesting and insightful, which is the only reason why I bothered to see this documentary, but I don't think I will bother with any of his future projects after having seen this complete and utter mess of a film.
This is a fairly difficult film to rate for a variety of reasons. The plot structure is a sound, fairly realistic portrayal of a subject which is so benign that it defies all logic and purpose in its inception, and therefore as a result, is one of the most unintentionally hilarious movies you'll ever see, as can be expected in any movie that tries to make a mundane aspect of human sexuality a subject of horror. In short, it's a DUMB movie, yet technically sound, and highly entertaining in a similar way to Tommy Wiseau's "The Room," which so many people play at parties to have fun ribbing it with their friends. Depending on what kind of friends you have, this could be a good party movie; but before we begin our in depth analysis, I have just one question to those type of people. So... You liked the movie. You enjoy it, and you appreciate it for it's entertainment value... Why are you giving it a 1 of 10 rating? If it's not a movie you HATE watching, doesn't that automatically make it better than a 1 or 2 out of 10 rated movie? Seems like a fairly schizophrenic reaction that I thought I'd address.
The story is a somewhat sensationalized tale of a teen addicted to porn, and that's just it, it's only SOMEWHAT sensationalized, and not to the point of being unbelievable. Predictably, some people are comparing this to reefer madness, but that's not quite accurate because it doesn't exactly go that far outside the realm of what we know about porn addiction, or addiction in general. The real gravitas in the film, I think centers around the fact that there's an underage girl who's using the internet to sell sex. This is what caused things to take a more serious turn in the film, and it DOES happen, particularly back in 2005 when Craigslist hookers were a thing. This is why it's not fair to compare it to reefer madness, because there are ACTUAL problems here which are being fairly diagnosed for what they are. This means of course, that the issue with the film from a thematic point of view, is it's focal point. We're not interested in the real issue here, which is underage prostitution. No, because the root cause of all of society's woes is easy access to porn, which in turn forces men to do terrible things and corrupts our youth... Right?
It's not that the scenes are especially over the top, because they're not. It's just the mere fact of basing a drama, so much ado, around something so tawdry and mundane. Do teens sometimes steal their mothers' credit cards to access porn sites? I guess so... Is it conceivable for a teen to become so addicted to porn that it starts interfering with his school work? In one out of a hundred cases I suppose... Who cares? It's NOT a big issue that our society is facing. There aren't support groups for parents who lost their sons to porn, and there never will be. The thing is, you could replace the porn theme with a whole handful of mundane things to showcase the EXACT same repercussions. "My son is addicted to video games! He stole my credit card to pay for online membership and is failing school!" ... "My son is addicted to Tacobell... It cost him his athletic scholarship!" ... "My son is addicted to Game of Thrones! He spends nights binging it rather than studying for tests!" ... "My son is addicted to Lord of the Rings! He dresses up as Gandalf and we've become social pariahs in our neighborhood!" These are ALL on the same level as the "issue" of teens being addicted to porn. Can any or all of these be the cause of family strife? Sure... So can just everyday life. WHO CARES? It's NOT a particularly worthy subject for a movie, to say the very least.
"But no THIS subject is a BIG DEAL because it's a SEX issue." Seriously, if you're this uptight about sex, you're more psychologically disturbed than someone who watches porn. Ultimately, the question is why? Who would spend so much time and money to dramatize such a silly subject? And with that comes two immediate answers, one notably more interesting than the other. (1) repeated throughout the film in a not overly bombastic way, is the idea of God and churchgoing. Uptight Christians sticking their nose into other people's sexuality. WHO ELSE? Seriously, get a new issue guys. I'm not saying your worldview is a "wrong" experience to strive for per se, I'm just saying you're perverted, and as evidenced by the reaction to this film, you're viewed by the vast majority of people as being perverted, because no one who's not a pervert would feel the need to repress their sexuality, and apply their repressive lifestyle to diagnose made up problems. That's ALL I'm saying. (2) If you look at the movie's trivia, apparently there's this theory being floated that the director made this movie as an inside joke unto himself from the very beginning, and indeed, if you look at his resume, the fact that most of the films he's been involved in were comedy or horror films, really is hard to ignore, given what an outlier this film comes across as, in that list of movies. Personally I LOVE this theory, and I hope to God it's true.
Extremely Relatable Character Study, Albeit Poor In Plot Development
To appreciate this movie, or at the very least the portrait that it tries to create, you have to understand the mind of someone with OCD. If you can't relate to the main character, then you'll probably find it very empty and pointless, because the film is essentially all about exploring a world of self-imposed deprivation, and all the bells and whistles that come along with that. There's no deeper meaning; there are no overlapping plot tangents other than a briefly explored backstory as to how our main protagonist got with his wife, and fought hard to get her, competing with his friend. This serves very importantly to show the force of will, ingenuity and determination that someone like this can and often does possess despite their frailties. The rest is all about exploring the journey which leads a successful, talented and hard working person to this sort of a life of scarcity.
Personally, despite the film's shortcomings, I can relate very strongly to the film because I've lived it, minus wife and kids. I believe that in fact, a lot of people have experienced these moments of personal retreat to varying degrees, and it just often doesn't get exposed for what it is. Howard Hughes would famously lock himself in his room for extended periods, and live those moments of his life consisting of the most meagre quality of sustenance, one such time when he binge watched every single Katherine Hepburn film after having become enamored with her.
In my case, when my disability made it so that I could no longer work, it very similarly forced me to retreat into myself as a desperate means to cling onto my independence. I'd just sold my house, and in the course of this, bought some properties up north to maintain some rental income to help support myself. Anyone who's undergone a serious move knows that it can be one of the most stressful experiences of one's life. Coupled with being in agonizing pain all throughout, the physical ordeal made things all the worse. We still hadn't secured a new property as our main residence, and were spending a couple weeks living in a filthy smoke infested basement suite. Right at the same time my renter had moved on, so I had to go down to the city and rent out my office unit, which at this point, despite being an ordeal in and of itself, was a welcome excuse to get away from it all.
Once I got to the city is where things started to unravel, you might say. After I arrived, I had several rendez-vous to make: replace the keys, set up appointments, obtain internet, acquire furniture etc. At the end of the day, in complete agony, laying on a couch in an empty office unit staring at the ceiling, you're surprised to find yourself in a state of sweet surrender that's suddenly much more appealing than you ever thought it would be. You ask yourself "what's it going to hurt if I stay here for a few days to get my strength back?" Days turn into weeks, and before long you've made arrangements to replace your mobile internet with a full contract including landline telephone. We'd just got our new place, and I could have returned home after a few days. A few days however, turned into 9 months.
My experience was nowhere near as extreme as the one depicted in the film, of course. You can't COMPLETELY cut yourself off from the world around you while living in an office unit, and you do maintain many creature comforts: air conditioning, internet, refrigeration. Arguably you can't really cut yourself off to that extent while living in a garage attic either, so the film kind of forced the subject to an unrealistic extent. VERY unbelievable that a family, and indeed an entire neighborhood had nobody of sound mind to clock on that there was a familiar looking "homeless dude" living in a garage for months on end. The only ones who caught on, were some special needs kids who in turn brought the guy food and supplies without telling a soul. You'd think this would attract MORE attention more than anything else, but apparently not. While the plot integrity of the film may have been extremely lacking, it's still hard not to appreciate the portrait that it was trying to give us.
It all comes back to self-imposed deprivation. Once you challenge your concept of what is and isn't normal or status quo, what may have seemed unthinkable becomes comfortable. You spend weeks living off canned fish, you pee in bottles, you give yourself sponge baths, and yes you sit around in your underwear most times to avoid stinky clothes, curtains drawn of course, as lawyers and accountants conduct business all around you. People come knocking on your door. At first you don't know how to respond, and by the time you're committed to showing yourself, the person has gone. Subsequently you become adamant about never answering your door. When the visits intensify you go out and print 10 or so signs saying "no soliciting" and literally "go away!" and plaster them all over your window. You then hear chatter "Some guy has locked himself in his office," but you don't care in the slightest. Instead you sit alone peering out your window watching people come and go and musing about all the familiar souls you see, all EXACTLY as depicted in this film, and yes, you quickly learn that it's impossible for anyone to see through the cracks of drawn blinds into a dark room. It's only possible to see out because the eyes simply can't focus on the dark of a surface that's mostly light. In the end, you spend most of your days in a dark room with the lights out, and it's true, people really don't know whether anyone is home half the time.
The question is, why do it? I can imagine a lot of people would find this film ridiculous because they can't imagine how ANYONE could get to this point. The answer is really quite simple. If you're someone with OCD, you want everything to be perfect. If for whatever reason you find yourself at an impasse where things CAN'T be perfect and there's nothing you can do about it, rather than settle for mediocrity, you settle for something much much less. Why? Because whatever you're settling for is something you can control, and that's what it's about. When you hear of "hoarders," it's the exact same concept.
At one point in my life I was a world traveler, and I fantasize about a time when I can do that again, so really this is fully different from something like agoraphobia, but even back then I can see how the same type of behaviour played out. In Asia for example, I was paranoid at the idea of taxi drivers cheating me on fares or bringing me somewhere against my will, so I insisted on walking every single place I went, 3 hour treks sometimes, hiking through the urban forest of concrete. In Auckland, I showed up at a hostel, and couldn't fathom the idea of staying in a grotty room with 6 other people, so instead I adopted a polyphasic sleep cycle and decided to stay nowhere, effectively living homeless for about 10 days. These are the things you do to maintain control. The film is about a man who feels weak, unimportant, unappreciated and desperately needs that sense of control back in his life, but doesn't know how to get it, so he retreats into himself. In the end it's an amazing character study and I appreciated this aspect of it, despite its faults.
It's sad that we have to ask the question, but these days seeing as how a man's healthy sex life can so readily be the pretext to seemingly perpetual damnation without charges or trial, in extremely ironic fashion the very scandal surrounding Louis completely renders redundant the entire purpose of the film and its message. The film comes across as episodic in nature, and doesn't really have much of a plot. What it is, is an existential exploration of relationships between men and women, be it father/daughter, friend/friend, husband/wife, boss/employee, and everything in between, mostly all focused around the ever pervasive sexual tension that exists therein. The main question the film postulates upon is "what does and does not constitute leud behavior, and in those situations who really is at fault?" Perhaps this is the conversation that SHOULD have been had in our culture, only now there's no way to have it.
The majority of people seem to be content to give the finger to the man, the film, and most importantly the question itself, and if that's not how they feel, they're TERRIFIED to say otherwise, and why? Because looking at yourself in the mirror as you sit back and judge others is hard. THAT'S what the film is about, and for that reason it's a complete flop, not just in terms of reception, but in terms of value and purpose. At the end of the day, it really is just a lot of dithering about things that we already know and are conscious of deep down, and there are just too few left to appreciate it for what it is. Hypocrisy is the word of the day here for everybody involved. Louis C.K. kind of comes across like he's pontificating his moral enlightenment from a pulpit of moral superiority, and expecting a round of applause for it. Essentially: "I know I'm flawed but aren't I such a great person for pointing out all of our flaws and owning up to them?"
Indeed, THIS was the film that was going to be the one that everyone lapped up, and showered with awards and adulation for tackling a "deep and troubling subject," where Chloe Grace Moretz was going to be slated for an Oscar nomination. No offence to the actress, but ABSOLUTELY ridiculous in my opinion, as this was not a demanding role by any stretch of the imagination. What happened to all of that? The answer is, nobody knows. Either you thought she was worthy of best actress and deserved to be awarded accordingly, or your award ceremony is worth NOTHING. Either you thought the film was worthy of accolades and proceeded to award the director accordingly, or your award ceremony is worth NOTHING. If the academy awards has nothing whatsoever to do with actual artistic merit, and it has simply to do with rewarding great deeds and whoever is the most morally virtuous of them all, then not a single actor or director should be given a single academy award EVER, as there are far more virtuous people in the world than any actor. If you can't separate the art from the man, then you're not a real award ceremony.
The fact is, the WHOLE scandal and all parties involved account for a parade of moralizing self-adulating b.s.; that's ALL this is in the end. This film WOULD have been overhyped and overrated; instead it's been unduly snubbed completely, and getting back to the real question, how do we truly rate this film now, and the budding career of Louis C.K. as a feature film director, cut short in its infancy? In short, this film is NOT a masterpiece. It's very flawed both in terms of writing and plot structure. It shows a LOT of room for him to grow as a director, however it also shows a lot of promise.
In terms of writing, yes a lot of it is funny and witty... OF COURSE it is. For me the main problem is Louis C.K. is really really bad at character development. When every SINGLE character talks EXACTLY like Louis C.K., not only is it distracting and impossible to miss, but for one, it's extremely unattractive hearing four different women talk like stereotypical man's man dudes. I can understand why this would have been hard to correct. Louis C.K. is so used to using language to express a fairly mundane idea or concept in a way that just sounds funny. To a certain extent, this would involve making a perfect comedic exchange on paper less funny because character X just wouldn't EVER talk with that level of comedic sophistication when character Y would. Sitcom characters vs. movie characters, basically. Either way, I found most characters in the film to be fairly unlikeable, which for a film like this, is a problem. Charlie Day's character is INSANELY obnoxious in this movie. He's one of those guys who clearly thinks all he has to do to be funny is overact in every single scene, one of the dime a dozen comic relief actors who play in one flop of a movie and are NEVER heard from again. He is that guy (hopefully).
In terms of directing, Louis made a couple of, I guess what would be considered bold moves: shooting in black and white, relying heavily on a classical film score, and trying really hard to give the film a retro feel, while still remaining contemporary. Did he succeed, and were these good decisions? I'll admit that the answer is EXTREMELY subjective so I'll say yes these elements DO tie together in a cohesive way, but because of the contemporary sitcom-like elements of the film, it also comes across as a bit pretentious. Personally I'm not a fan of it at all. To me this is all tinsel. It's kind of like painting over cracks of an unsound foundation with glitter. As far as I'm concerned there's NEVER a good reason to shoot in black and white, for one. In the early days they shot in black and white because the technology for color was not yet perfected. That's ALL that is, and so far I've NEVER heard an artistic reason to shoot in black and white that didn't sound ridiculous to me. Directors who do this are usually trying to lend a sort of artificial gravitas to a film that has some undeniably cheap elements to it, which they don't have the skill to iron out any other way. Russ Meyer did it, and now Louis C.K. did it too. It's really not as deep as you want to believe.
To me the worst aspect is he all too often tries to shovel too many plot devices into the same scene. This was common in early films: "Protagonist receives important phone call. Key character arrives unannounced to deliver important plot point. Second key character arrives unannounced to deliver important plot point," and it's all within the same scene, this same pattern repeating itself over and over again. The movie comes across as a cheap TV sitcom, particularly in the first half, for this reason. The film as a whole is clear tribute to early Woody Allen films, but Woody Allen, Louis C.K. is not, at least not yet. The script is funny and has some real gems in it; it just needed a more sophisticated package to be considered anything bordering on "great" or a "masterpiece." Will Louis C.K. ever be able to achieve that level of skill as a director? Sadly, we may never know.
Why Do Some People Think Badly Focused Movies With No Ending Are So Clever?
The fact is, this film is about nothing; it's as simple as that. In and of itself that's not the problem. Plenty of films are completely surreal or don't have a pointed subject and are AMAZING. Basically, for most of the first half, the film plays out as a typical linear crime drama based mainly around two criminal accomplices. The end result is we're left with an open ending because we're not really given much of the backstory, and virtually no backdoor scenes that would give us real insight into the nature and motives of the group who hire the criminal duo to commit a series of murders for them.
The issue I have with films like this is, despite being about nothing, they're based around a STORY that is about something. In other words, every linear film is based within a certain time frame, be it a few days or a few years. What a typical linear film does is it selects moments that are relevant to the story within that specific time frame, and compiles them into an hour+ product designed specifically to convey the story to the viewer. Films like this purposely try to do that EXTREMELY badly.
Essentially, within the time frame of the story that this film is based around, there IS a clear and definite answer to the many unanswered questions that the viewer is left with by the end of the film... but we're not shown it. Why? Because it's GENIUS not to show it... Right? "Wow... This film is so deep and atmospheric." No... It just left out two or three key scenes that made you think too hard about things that can ONLY be interpreted to have meaning in a way that's entirely subjective, and the amount of effort you spent thinking about those things made them appear larger than they actually are, so as to give the illusion of high-brow sophistication, when really the film explores nothing all that thought-provoking.
Is it possible to create a "good" film based almost entirely around atmosphere and intrigue alone? The answer to that question I will concede is entirely subjective, hence the generous rating I've given it. To me however, films like this NEVER don't feel like a practical joke played upon the viewer by a director who has no interest whatsoever in conveying a story: "Haha! Gotcha! You thought this movie was going to go somewhere but it wasn't! It's about ABSOLUTELY nothing and I just made you waste 90 minutes of your life!" And for that reason, one thing I won't concede, is that films like this can EVER be considered "great."
Proof That French Sensibilities Don't Translate Well To American Cinema. Shocking, Right?
Before I get into the actual merits of the film, it would be extremely remiss to not preface that with the real reason behind how and why this film came to be in the first place, a remake of a French film that was made only 3 years prior. For those of you who don't already know, Gerard Depardieu is basically a living legend in French cinema, so why not for American cinema too? Surely the whole world will love him just as much as the French do! In a mouthful, that's taking a lot for granted.
Personally I never understood the mass appeal of this man in France. He's an A-list actor there, and while I don't begrudge him that, he's also become a bit of a phenomenon. In fact, you really don't have the American equivalent. To make it clearer, Americans really don't have ONE guy upon who's shoulder they can rest the entire history of American cinema. Gerard Depardieu is basically that guy in France. He's essentially to film what Elvis Presley was to music. This film was the film that was intended to launch Depardieu's acting debut in America, and make him a household name in America, so after being almost universally panned by critics, why didn't it work?
Of all the screenplays they could have chosen for an American breakout feature, this one really was a curious choice. It's a film that deals with an incestuous, pedophilic subject. Europeans find this cute and funny, and the idea of older/younger relationships, as well as coming of age stories were a bit of a guilty pleasure over there for awhile, whereas those type of themes tend to creep out most Americans to the point where they would have trouble appreciating the comedy and irony in this type of film. That being said, even in Europe this type of pseudo-sex comedy was already on the way out by the mid 90s anyway. The "pseudo-sexual" aspect in and of itself is at the core of this film's lack of appeal to an American Audience. It's NOT really a sex comedy. It's PG rated with little to no sexual intrigue, so it's not going to appeal to young adults, and it's sure as hell not the type of thing most Americans would want to show to their kids.
So how did the "Americanization" of this massive cultural disconnect go? Simply put, not well! For starters, French humour relies heavily on character comedy. As such, erratic mood swings and exaggerated reactions are common in French comedies. The end result is, Depardieu's acting comes across as forced; he overacts basically, and in combination with his thick accent and scripted English expressions that only a native English speaker would say, it comes across as extremely awkward and wooden. It's like trying to tell a joke in a foreign language when you barely understand the words coming out of your mouth. It's hard to distinguish when he's trying to be funny or when he's trying to be serious, and unlike actors like Michael Caine, he's bad at blending the two.
One thing I find quite funny is how they tried to soften Depardieu's character in the American version to make him more likeable. For example, in the original, he beats his daughter twice, and he beats the woman he met at the resort once. All times in a matter of fact way as if not intended to illicit any type of audience reaction. Not so in the American Version. How's that for a cultural disconnect? In this version he comes across as more silly and light hearted, whereas in the original he comes across as a bit of a crank with a serious anger problem, and not likeable at all. There's definitely a "please like me!" aspect to this film which you'd probably only pick up on if you saw the original, but I definitely couldn't stop thinking about it, watching this.
So how did this film compare to the original? Believe it or not, I still thought this film was slightly better than the original. Even though most of the scenes are essentially copy and pasted, this director staging the scenes more naturally and less forced. In the original, one plot premise is constantly feeding into another. He also quite sensibly cut out the violent altercation where Depardieu punches out the resort's cook, right before he undergoes his failed attempt to rescue his daughter. In the original he's whisked into an ambulance, and never gets charged for commiting assault, whereas in this film he's brought back to the guesthouse to sleep it off. Again, much more natural and less forced, this being the most extreme example of that.
Ultimately though, neither are very good films. I suppose it didn't hurt that Katherine Heigl is much more attractive than the girl in the original film. Opposing that are things like the speedboat scene which in this film is more over-the-top than in the original, plus the entire premise itself comes across as forced, moreso in this film, especially when Depardieu's character spontaneously starts singing a song about little girls, completely oblivious to the fact that everyone at the resort thinks he's a pedophile. The scene that really kills it for me though in both films is the scene towards the end where the father is hiding in the bushes feeding lines to his daughter as she speaks to her male love interest in the film. So needlessly ridiculous.
Thank God None Of These Characters Had A Boring New Years... Right?
This really is one of the strangest sequel's I've ever seen. Typically the only reason to ever have a sequel, especially one that's been hashed up retroactively as opposed to say, Lord Of The Rings, where you have three separate preconceived parts, is to recapture the magic of the original film. If you can't do that, the sequel is almost COMPLETELY redundant, in most cases. This speaks a lot to the fact that this film was quite widely canned at the time of its release. What it does, is it tries to cram four separate storylines and four separate timelines into one film, all taking place separately and far apart from each other. As such, the multiple plotlines are not as tight; there's no codependency between them, and the film fails to recapture the basic feel and general premise of the original film, which was that of urgency and adventure: one single fast paced night of riding fast, drag racing, and picking up girls.
That being said. This film is interesting because it's quite ambitious, and does have a lot of character in its own right. It SHOULDN'T have been a sequel; of that there's no question. The question at this point is, how well would this concept have worked as a stand-alone movie? Quite simply, they have too many concepts going on at once, which makes the film both overly contrived, and difficult to follow, with the triteness of each plotline making it hard to really empathize with the characters on screen. It really does play out rather strangely as an action movie that was never really intended as an action movie. It just feels like there's too much going on, with so many characters that aren't fully or properly explored. There's a question that anyone watching this film should be asking themselves. How wacky is YOUR life, and at what point should one's suspension of disbelief go away after being presented with one over-the-top scene after another? The gimmick of each of the 4 storylines taking place on a separate concurrent New Year's Eve, in the end really does test that limit. If you're an ordinary person, your life doesn't suddenly explode and come to a head every New Years, as it does for virtually EVERY character on screen.
They were simply trying to fit too many things into one package, and in the process, completely forgot about the appeal of the original film. If you enjoyed the original, you would have wanted to see another film about drag racing and picking up chicks. If that describes you, then you were cheated with this sequel. What this film DOES do well though, is it shows us a caricatural parody of four different facets of American culture surrounding the Vietnam era. Could this have functioned as a stand alone concept? Maybe, if they dropped the New Year's gimmick. It's a fun caper in its own right perhaps, but understandably, caricature and parody are not the types of things any fan of the original "American Graffiti," would have wanted to see made into a sequel.
Easily The Most Unintentionally Creepy Cinematic Plot Premise Of Alltime
First of all, clearly this is one of those movies for people who love this kind of music, love the kind of song and dance fare that Fred Astaire is famous for, and don't care two blinks about the package it's delivered in. As such, it's a film which like most musicals, you can't really judge in terms of conventional plot structure. That being said, the film as a total package is nothing short of a trainwreck on so many levels, by conventional standards. Fred Astaire was clearly a wizard at his craft, of that there's no question. Watching the dance routines where he's on tables and bartops is like watching a magician perform a magic trick. All musical numbers aside however, the roles are horribly miscast, the romantic relationship is extremely contrived and forced, and the plot devices are just so over the top that it all comes together as a film so unconventional that it's actually amazing in its own way.
With that, I think it's high time to address the title of this review. It's fairly evident from the dialogue and the various plot elements that the two main Characters played by Fred Astaire and Joan Leslie are both intended to be young adults in their twenties. Leslie's character is an established and well respected photographer who works in the editorial department of a publishing company. However, Joan Leslie was only 17 when this was filmed, and the incongruity there is definitely glaring. 43 at the time, Fred Astaire's character is a pilot with a carefree nature to the point of coming cross as a total loafer, who flees his military tour leave, opting to find his own adventure in the coming week or so. While having no apparent work related skillset aside from piloting aircraft, it just so happens that he can sing and dance up a storm. Apparently this is something that all average Joes can do, as it hasn't been worked into the character's history AT ALL or cross-examined in the slightest. All this, in addition to when he says "I'll have to ask my parents if they approve," after Joan proposes marriage to him, suggests that the character is intended to be much younger. At any rate, the Character of "Fred" is very poorly developed.
In the end, it looks incredibly less conspicuous on paper to have a 20 something year old man aggressively pursuing a 20 something year old woman than it comes across on screen to have a 43 year old man so aggressively pursuing a 17 year old girl/woman. Let me put every emphasis on AGGRESSIVELY here. It's not just the fact of an older man having a love interest in a younger woman. He literally stalks her for the first half of the movie. I really feel like I need to detail the plot progression based around this premise, if for nothing else than for my own amusement. He meets her at her bar where he creepily tries to appear in all of her photos that she's taking for the event being held there. She finds him quirky, but essentially tells him to buzz off. She leaves for a quieter venue to grab a bite to eat, and he follows her here. He pays her way, yet she sort of leaves him in the lurch and bails almost instantly, seemingly eager to get away, albeit politely. She then leaves the bar and he follows her home sneaking up behind her. After she threatens to call the police, they both suddenly begin singing lyrical suggestions to each other, which comes across so contrived given that she's told him to go away and leave her alone numerous times already, that it seems like more of a misdirection by Leslie's character to distract him long enough so that he doesn't haul her into a side alley and rape her, rather than actual developing chemistry between the two characters, a speculation soon confirmed when she finally reaches her place of residence, and says goodbye, seemingly hoping to never see him again. Not soon to be so easily discarded, he notices a vacancy sign in the window and swiftly makes her place his new home (landlords were less discriminating in the old days, I guess). When she wakes up, she's shocked and appalled to see him living there, then leaves for work to take some photographs at the docks. He follows her here. She's even more furious than before. She then goes to her office and he follows her here as well, creating a huge scene in front of everyone working there.
Just think about this for a second. Imagine you're living in a group home, and you follow one of your housemates around for their entire hour working day, who you know and are friends with. That would be a little bit creepy and crazy wouldn't it? Now imagine doing it to a total stranger. Despite being angry/annoyed by him, rather than call the police on him like any normal rational young woman might do, she inexplicably offers him a job interview instead, even though he expresses no desire to work whatsoever. Later that night she attends a private event, and he's invited to tag along. Get it boys? The lesson here is to stalk random women who you don't even know, but find sexy, and the minute you come across as a complete stalker/rapist is when they will swoon over you and let you into their lives. You've really got to love the culture contrast between 2018 and 1943. Playing this movie to a group of modern day feminists sure would be fun.
Ultimately, the film of course is a comedy, but if you were to replace the film score with a horror/thriller soundtrack, it would actually come across as quite scary/ominous up to this point, and I doubt you'd be able to tell the difference. Honestly, if Leslie's character continued to rebuke Astaire's character after this point, I feel like his character is so unstable that he would have escalated to the point of throwing her into a car trunk. I'll leave the rest to your imagination. This one really is begging to be lampooned in a Youtube edit. Anyway, at the private event, Astaire's character comes across as overly obtrusive, and muscles his way into a musical act that she performs in front of the crowd, one which we're intended to believe is completely ad-libbed by the two characters, my favorite line in which was "you better start stripping," by Astaire. Apparently that won her over, because now at 40 minutes in, she appears to have firmly decided that she likes him, despite her many grumpy faces up until this point.
I see so many other reviews commenting on the "great chemistry" between Joan Leslie and Fred Astaire in this film, but honestly I just don't see it. Her character is supposed to go from angry to jovial to angry to jovial so many times in the first half of the film. I really don't know how one should act out such a schizophrenic role, but in the end when she proposes marriage to him, a total of 20 minutes and one day later, it would be a massive understatement to say that it comes across as a nonsensical plot contrivance for an enterprising career oriented young woman to suddenly out of nowhere, be inspired to propose marriage to a jobless middle-aged deadbeat who she knows next to nothing about, who's clearly mentally unstable, and who's been stalking her for the past few days. Fred Astaire was not even a particularly good-looking guy either.
I do understand that in the old days, for the mostpart you really couldn't have sexual flings without completely destroying your reputation, especially for the woman, and as with so many early films, this sudden and unexpected marriage proposal couldn't come across as anything other than. "I really really badly want to go pokies with you, but I want to remain within social acceptability while I do it, so I'm perfectly willing to blunder myself into an absolute trainwreck of a marriage as long as it means we get to screw within the next 24 hours." While early films are notoriously bad at conveying romance on screen, this one is definitely at the head of the pack. The romantic angle just makes no sense, and there's nothing the actors could have done to sell it, in my opinion. What can I say though, in the end I did enjoy this movie a fair bit, not in SPITE of it being conventionally horrible but BECAUSE of it. It's perverted beyond belief without trying to be, while being thoroughly oblivious to that fact. What's not to love? Astaire's dancing is of course always entertaining by its own merit as well.
I don't think I've ever seen a film this unequivocally hard to stomach in my life before, even worse than the 2004 race-bait film, "Crash." Simply referring to it as a feature film in and of itself is dubious. Really all it is, is an overwrought 2 hour length public service announcement designed as a circle jerk over the preconceived notions held by an increasingly petty breed of social activist who loves living in a bubble, hates having their views challenged, and would claim false victimhood in a world that in 2016, leans overwhelmingly in their favor, which makes it both grueling in running time and in subject matter.
It's clearly intended to be super edgy by challenging the way heterosexuals may look at "homophobia" by reversing the roles of oppressor/aggressor. All it reveals is an incredibly insulated concept of oppression held by its creators, one that relies on hyperbole, cliché, gross-out scenes, and everything caricatural surrounding bigotry that you can possibly think of, looking at the problem through an unrealistically magnified lens. It's as if they tried to cram an entire history of oppression into one little neighborhood, within the space of two hours.
Starting with the premise, a world that's completely homonormative where heterosexuals are oppressed and ostracized. As a concept, you could actually make something quite interesting out of that, but the problem is, we have to be given a REASON, and it has to make sense. This could have been a very developed sci-fi theme, or something of the sort, where humans are grown in test tubes, where there's an involved and developed backstory explaining how heterosexuality became redundant and was viewed as a force of antagonism. The problem is, the film makers had no interest in crafting a story with any sense or rationale to it. Literally all they seem to care about is propaganda.
The film is supposed to be an alternate universe that's always been homonormative and oppressive of heterosexuals since the time of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Julio," and us the audience, are supposed to take it for granted. As such, the film fails to address the real reasons behind bigotry, and instead presents homophobia as an either/or situation that can be easily flipflopped, when it can't. Let's really take a look at this though. Today, the average secular family has roughly 1.6 children. In a world that actively discourages heterosexual unions, calling them "breeders" as a pejorative, would such a world really be able to sustain its own population? More to the point, every single person alive would have to hate/despise their parents literally for giving birth to them. It's just dumb.
The film is pretty much one scene after another showcasing overt bigotry against heterosexuals, each scene more extreme than the last. That's ALL it is. The message is loud and clear. "Ha! You see what us homosexuals have to live with? Well now you know what it feels like, and doesn't that bother you tremendously?!" OK so they succeeded in bothering me. Touche, but not for the right reasons.
I'm bothered by how ridiculously tone deaf they are to the world they live in. Did anyone at my school get picked on or bullied for being gay, led alone beat up or murdered? NO. NONE. Literally never! At one point, within the wrong circle I made an offhand comment saying "I think two men having sex is disgusting," and for this comment I was ostracized, insulted, and shunned for the next little while until I formally revoked those words. That was the world almost 20 years ago. The world today is so overwhelmingly pro gay, that the over-the top scenes in this film are not even close to an accurate parallel AT ALL. In the city in which I live, all summer long people are flying rainbow flags from dawn to dusk, so I'm sorry to say, gays being oppressed in ANY societal context is not a reality I've ever known.
That being said, even in the fictional context here, it makes no sense. If heterosexuals in the film face so much hatred to the point of being beaten up, bullied, and killed, why are so many people "coming out of the closet," in the first place? The plot of the film is completely incoherent to the setting, for this reason. In such a society, EVERYONE would be in the closet. Likewise, the 50's were a "don't ask/don't tell" situation, and as a result you DIDN'T have a dramatic world of overt direct oppression/harassment like you do in this film.
The film is just SO over the top, SO self-indulgent that it reminds me of "Reefer Madness," but with one important difference: "Reefer Madness" is at least something we can all sit back and laugh at now. The film simply takes itself too seriously, and so do too many people who watched it, while it contains not a SINGLE hint of intentional humour or irony, despite the ridiculous plot elements. The scenes of bullying would be bad in ANY film, regardless of the subject, because of how clichéd and forced they are. Of course, because the film tackles the gay issue, it's presented with awards and accolades, but honestly, if this was a film that dealt simply with bullying, simple bullying, the majority of people would be canning it for the same reasons that I am.
I'm all for having the discussion about bigotry and oppression, and if that's what they wanted to do, it would have been a much more productive conversation if it was evoked through satire. Of course that's not what these filmmakers are about, not unity or mutual understanding, and certainly not about spreading love. The message they have is one of self-privilege. They're the type of people obsessed with getting attention and special interests by playing the victim card over and over again, and they get it by spreading misery and pain, the core elements of who they are, miserable, and self-absorbed, just like the characters in their story.
I've seen some of this director's other films, and suffice it to say, this film was not put together by an amateur. The director has a lot of technical skill under his belt; the problem is he tends to bite off more than he can chew. His scripts tend to be unconventional in that they often deal with a lot of extraneous elements, e.g. non essential characters and plot devices, which most directors wouldn't have the confidence to attempt, and not surprisingly, sometimes it pays off whereas sometimes it doesn't.
To start off, this is an experimental film, the only question is WHY? In my opinion, the script, and the basic premise are very strong, and this could have been a very solid little indie film were it handled better. It's not a character or dialogue driven film, but it doesn't have to be. It's a plot/action driven film, and yes there are some decent action scenes (I had no idea Danielle Chucran could do all that). It was clearly produced with a shoestring budget, but for the mostpart, the director put his funds to good use with some convincing special effects where needed, so I guess the question now is, what went wrong?
First of all, the director made the very bad decision of opting for a "found footage" style film, where all the material we see comprises security camera footage, and footage supposedly from ocular implants. This ends up ruining things in two ways (1) it makes the film seem much much more amateurish than would have been intended, and (2) it's done in a way that makes you feel detached and uninvested in what you're seeing.
An even worse decision however: the director clearly wanted to put across the impression of being watched and being under surveillance, not being in control of your mind or body, and having people see through your very eyes and people controlling you and your actions. So how does he accomplish this? The entire film is sarcastically narrated by a teenage girl ALL the way through. It's cute for about 10 minutes, then it really starts to grate on you. Ultimately, the narration really never manages to synchronize well with the film.
It ends up being a little bit like watching a movie with your annoying younger sister. What this does, why it was a disaster move, is because it removes you even FURTHER from the material itself. Remember, it's an action/plot driven film. If you're taken out of the action at EVERY single moment, you just can't get into the film. Interestingly enough, the girl narrating the movie often literally makes fun of the camera angles, the bad acting, the plot devices, and half the time you tend to think "Hmm yeah, good point, that was a rather shoddy decision wasn't it..." The director: WHAT was he thinking?!
A standout criticism in particular is when she makes fun of the really bad French accents, a perfect example of the director biting off more than he can chew. Danielle Chucran has some acting talent, but her aside, you're hiring the majority of these people mainly for their skill in martial arts and stunts, not for their acting ability. For the love of God, WHY are you making them put on foreign accents? It's the most consistent way to cheapen a film's quality.
In a word, disappointing. So many bad decisions came together to ruin what could have been a decent film. If Danielle Chucran saw the final cut, assuming she's not a complete bimbo, I imagine she would be very annoyed with the final product as well. The narration was like a smudge on virtually all of her scenes. In all honestly, if the director going forward, has trouble getting producers to fund his projects, it serves him right. What a mess.
Really Lukewarm Stuff That Gives You Nothing To Come Away With
First of all, let me say I get the feeling that a lot of people will be enamored by this movie, or more precisely, feel pressed into treating it with a sort of reverence for what it is, a fake documentary centered around a pseudo controversial, pseudo thought- provoking subject: the extinction of man, being presented in as kosher and superficial a way as possible. By the same token, this is precisely why it left such a dry taste in my mouth, because it just doesn't go beyond being a documentary about a fake subject, crafted to be as close of a simulacrum to real life as possible, with a little bit of comic irony thrown in, in the attempt to give the audience at least SOMETHING tangible to come away with.
The problem is, it's not enough to make the film stand out. For one, the jokes just aren't clever or funny enough for this film to be appreciated as a comedy, in my opinion. The humour is very much in the vein of "chuckle chuckle" university hall type humour, and the entire film basically has one running joke going for it: male stereotypes that have already been done to death, combined with the situational irony of straight white males being presented as an oppressed class.
In that regard, it's very clear to see that the filmmakers were quite stealthily trying to walk the line between coming across as either feminist leaning, or anti-feminist. Contrary to what some commenters are saying, I think they largely succeeded to that effect, and I'm saying that as someone who tends to have a very strong repulsion to anything that comes across as preachy gender bias. Some commenters were annoyed that the film focused so much on men's needs, desires, and feelings, whereas others were, I guess riled up by the male stereotyping. One way or another, if you have trouble appreciating a light-hearted film for what it is, your own biases may very easily show, because that's what this is, a film that puts forth incredibly superficial and innocuous ideas, which isn't meant to be taken too seriously, as a result.
Indeed, this is lukewarm stuff that's not going to land or resonate with people in ANY meaningful way, and instead will have people arguing back and forth over whether or not it was taking a light jab (very light) at either gender (realistically it does so to both). It's not a thought provoking film in the slightest. It doesn't deal with the idea of gender as a social construct whatsoever, and somewhat surprisingly, it barely even scrapes the surface of the most obvious thing, the gay/straight issue, not to mention barely scraping the surface on how gender roles in society play out. Women achieve world peace and environmental causes. That's as deep as it gets. Do women really make worse engineers, and would certain male dominated fields like that end up disintegrating? This film wasn't about to touch those kinds of topics with a 10 foot pole, with good reason, to some extent.
Ultimately, being thought-provoking is at the very end of the list of things that this film could have done to make itself resonate more. Worst of all, is it's a very ineffective character study. We really don't get to see the nitty-gritty of our male protagonist's daily life, because the film instead spends so much time building up the history behind this manless alternate universe that they've created, which I found impossible to get interested in. Simply put, the society is not strange enough or dire enough to be spellbinding the way stories like "1984" are. If the film was focused as more of a "day in the life of" style documentary, while leaving out the long boring history lesson, it would have been infinitely better. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever seen an ACTUAL documentary that attempts to do both in one movie, the way this film does. The film lacks focus, and really, that's what kills it.
All the while watching this, I just kept thinking to myself "This is stupid." or "Who cares?" because I could not in any way connect with, or emotionally invest into the characters on screen. No offence to anyone who actually liked this, but to me it was a film almost completely without purpose. They successfully created a very realistic-seeming fake documentary about the near extinction of the male species... So what?
A Little Insight Into The Real Lizzie And Public Service Speaking.
The girl who this is based on actually came to speak at my high school, way back in the day. She seemed like a total basket case to me, and nothing like the girl who portrays her in the movie. At the time, she was in her mid to late twenties, dressed and spoke in a very tomboyish juvenile sort of way, and kind of seemed like someone who psychologically had never left high school. She even admitted herself that when she first started doing public talks, which was part of her community service, many people thought she seemed too unstable to do it.
Not a particularly effective movie in my opinion, because it seems to gloss over a troubled and erratic personality type that led to such a great deal of self destruction, and attempts to reduce and condense it into a couple month period after the accident, in turn making most of the turmoil appear to be a reaction rather than the cause.
The real life Lizzie went on about her alcoholism, how she would lie cheat and steal to get what she wanted, how she would often steal money from her mother, knew what she was doing was wrong, and hated herself for doing it, but was in a vicious cycle of self destruction, where being in that place was too normalizing for her to do anything else. Kind of someone who's life was destined to be a long painful drawn out mia culpa.
Mostly, she garnered a fairly positive reaction from the kids at the presentation. In my day, it was very popular, and probably still is, for school administrations to try to shock kids into behaving in accordance with whatever the present mode of choice happens to be. Is unleashing complete basket cases who use kids as their own personal mode of catharsis a productive way to teach them reason? Who knows, but being able to postulate on all of this now as a result, sure is fun.
Finally A Stalker Film With A "Real" Motive That's Not Ridiculous
The moral of the story is, don't do prison time for selfish bitches. Indeed it's NEVER a good idea to do time for a crime you didn't commit. That being said, this is the first stalker movie I've seen in ages where the stalker's motive isn't completely ridiculous. Arguably his position is TOO sympathetic, because if you do time for somebody, typically not just the expectation, but the OBLIGATION is a quid pro quo result.
If the mother wasn't going to stay in a relationship with the guy, she should have turned herself in from the start, but instead she let him serve a full sentence for a crime he didn't commit. That kind of makes the protagonist in this story SO much worse than the antagonist, not to mention the fact that she killed a guy on his own property within the opening minutes of the film. The irony I suppose, is letting the guy kill her boyfriend would have in fact probably made her less of a piece of scheisse. Films that deal with questions of moral turpitude sure are a lot of fun.
Overall it's a very basic screenplay with threadbare dialogue even, which is somewhat typical of most TV movies these days. Louis Mandylor as the jealous ex-lover, in large part, completely sells the movie as a concept, the main standout scene being his confrontation with the mother's husband. What this film really has going for it though, is the very atypical realism of the whole underlying "stalker" situation. As the viewer, you'll likely feel inner conflict over the scenario you've been presented with. It therefore succeeds very well in drawing the viewer in and holding one's interest, for the simple reason that, unlike most stalker movies, it deals with sacrifice and loss in a way that's relatable.
If you've ever been in a relationship where you've given more than you got back, or maybe feel guilty for not reciprocating what you feel you should have or could have, you'll likely be getting JUST a little bit more out of this film, than you would out of, say, the typical thriller/stalker film where the antagonist is either ridiculously in love at first sight, with no real depth of character explored, or thriller/stalker films where the antagonist is seeking revenge for something often half-baked or accidental, in a way that's over the top, and where the ends don't in any way justify the means. That's what I'm personally all too used to seeing with this type of formula, so with this film came a slight refreshing illumination for the genre.
Whatever You May Expect Your Expectations Will Be Exceeded
Horror is almost always an excuse for talentless directors to create absolute poop. It caters to a very specific fanbase, it seldom ever garners any accolades or awards outside that fanbase, and in many ways it's on the same level of porn. That being said, when you see a film that's both comedy/horror, it may have an interesting premise and you may expect to be entertained, but you also overwhelmingly expect to witness absolute garbage. This film, I think succeeds as a horror/comedy in a way that you wouldn't expect and it's the only such film which I've seen to date that transcends being strictly a horror film.
It's able to be both funny and horrific at the same time as portraying a degree of realism. Sure the premise is a little bit staged, and things are somewhat over the top in terms of what you might realistically expect, but you never feel as though the characters are speaking to the camera as is so often the case in these films, what happens in the film is not so ridiculous as to be unbelieavable, and the action/violence is very well directed.
Both the comedy and the horror are extremely clever and co-dependent where one amplifies the other, and a lot of over the top clichés are avoided. For example the scene where one of them has his leg stuck in a trap and his co-workers keep trying to open the trap and it keeps slamming shut on his leg; because it's a bit funny, at least to me made the gruesomeness stand out so much more.
The buildup of the film starts off as a typical comedy film. For these types of films, this portion is almost always anywhere from tedious, uninteresting, to downright boring. In this case, none of the characters really come across as annoying or unlikeable as is often the case with slasher films, I was rather enjoying the team building atmosphere, and was kind of wanting the film to remain a comedy, but of course midway through, everything begins to go wrong for this group of colleagues. A horror film that actually makes you empathize with the characters in this way is not one that's going for cheap scares and shocks, but one that actually wants to draw you into the story, which is really the only way to give the viewer that feeling of suspense.
Christopher Smith's previous film "Creep" was a huge flop in my opinion, but the sheer cleverness of this one really puts a lasting notch in his belt as a director. Hopefully he continues to breathe new life into the horror genre as well as transcend it.
Idiotic Hair-brained Heist Scheme Made To Look Clever.
This review is essentially for anyone who has already seen the film, and thought it was amazingly intelligent, well done, and coherently put together. The end of the film presents us with a picture of finality, that our main protagonist pulled off the perfect crime, and got away with it without any suspicion or investigation against him, and made a slick easy 2 million dollars that was untraceable. If you accept this premise, then you accept that all the law enforcement investigating the case, as well as those involved had the intelligence of 5 year olds.
One of the most damning aspects I think, is the idea that no link could be established between the main protagonist and his 2 accomplices who he was friends with, the girl, who he was in a relationship with. To believe this, you have to believe that of the many people who had seen his 2 accomplices on university campus which is where he met them, NO ONE had seen him with them, and more than that, think about how they would have had to have not mentioned him to ANYONE they know; no mention of him to ANY of their friends or family, or on sites like facebook, twitter, phone records even; NOTHING; no link whatsoever. All it would have taken was a tiny link which is hard to believe didn't exist, especially in the case of his female accomplice who was in love with him, and he would be facing a very fervent investigation down his throat.
With that impossible hurdle aside, we come to the many flaws in the execution of the crime itself. Firstly, he gives his male accomplice a gun with blanks, yet he gives his female accomplice a gun with real bullets, and it just so happens she ends up shooting one of the 3 hostages, contrary to his plan. This firstly, looks very staged, and secondly it makes no sense that he would risk giving one of them an armed gun, and the other not. In terms of evidence of him being in the house, you see him gloveless touching quite a lot of things and the house does NOT get burned down, not to mention tire tracks of his own car in the surrounding dirt road areas which would have made his story inconsistent. In addition to this, the 2 remaining hostages DO hear the protagonist talking over the phone, yet they don't recognize his voice when he comes to the door. Picture being blindfolded, terrorized, and the only thing you hear is this man's voice. I guarantee that voice will be running through your head for weeks.
Now the incidentals, the worst of which is the female accomplice being killed by the male accomplice. Even though the guy was unstable, supposedly she was still his best friend, so although not impossible, it doesn't make any sense that he would kill her so glibly. Why this is important, is because if HE didn't kill her, the protagonist who is somewhat being presented in a sympathetic way would have had to kill his own girlfriend. This seems too staged and convenient, and none of it really seems to mesh. As a side note, I found it somewhat tacky how the third father ends up forking over a million dollars, when at this point he has seen or heard NO actual evidence of what his friends are saying. THEY could be scamming him for all he knows.
I am just a random idiot of average intelligence, so if these glaringly obvious inconsistencies are obvious to ME, just imagine how much more evidence and suspicion a highly intelligent crime investigator would have against our protagonist, and keeping in mind only a SINGLE ONE of my points would have had to catch someones attention for a large investigation to be launched against our protagonist causing them to realize "AHA! He was the son of the butler, now we have a connection. Now we have a motive. Now we know how he acquired access to the house. Now we know how he knew about this gathering". We the viewers in the end are supposed to believe that he was foolish enough to commit so many very simple errors, yet clever enough to work out an elaborate money laundering scheme and phone location rerouting system. I think not, and then the worst thing films like these can ever do is done by dipping the viewer's nose in the "cleverness" of this very flawed plot premise in the closing narration, rather than serving up a more ambiguous ending.
What Motivates Youth Today As Dictated By Confused Middle Aged Men.
I honestly have to wonder if many of the other reviewers have seen the same film as I. Unfortunately, I went into this film with very high expectations, as the premise and the content warnings seemed very much like they would deliver something compelling and extreme. The main red flag however, is that this was a low budget movie from a director who made no further films. This can sometimes mean something brilliant, but in this case, the film just barely steps above the bar of "cheap amateurish independent straight to video film".
The Writing Style/Plot Development
One important thing to note is that this film is very dialogue driven, mainly with the monologues by the characters to the camera. I know well about the writing process, and as in plays, when your story is so heavily dialogue based, you're at a great risk of making your characters seem schizophrenic, because that dialogue is ultimately based on the episodic mood swings of the writer over a long period of time, crunched down into the short period of time within the material. The foremost problem with the material delivered by these young actors is that really, it sounds like dialogue written by a balding middle aged man who THINKS he knows how teenagers talk, feel, and rationalize, which is packed with tonnes of whiny pseudo intellectual nonsense, which because they're TEENAGERS, never goes full circle and often ends in vanity, triteness, or ambiguity, so in most cases a REAL concise reason for committing suicide is never established, and how each character's "inner thoughts" contradict from scene to scene shows that the writer himself did not BELIEVE the dialogue, and thus was unable to make it coherent and credible.
My first impression was that the directing was bad, but the story and idea were good. I began to think twice about this in how the instigator of the whole premise "Scott", tells his very eclectic group of friends about his idea one by one, who ALL think it's so cool and amazing, and that they too MUST commit suicide along with him. The young actors were fairly mediocre, aside from Kris Lemche as "Patrick" who was the only one really able to create a compelling character with some sort of screen presence. I personally did not like any of the characters, especially the main protagonist "Scott" who speaks like a programmed robot, so filled with technical analytical phrases, that he only comes across as a caricature, and his friends have a bit of this too. Even though they're supposed to be non mainstream, in this film, a hodgepodge of sub cultures and social backgrounds so that ALL BASES of teen anxiety are covered, it's hard to imagine anyone being that out of touch with the world they live in, and moreover, "Scott" is able to rationally convince the school bully to return their camera, that he stole, with this very irritating way of speaking.
The Directing/Scene Layout
The directing, combined with a very stagey unravelling of events is what I found amazing that so many other reviewers were able to overlook. The classroom scenes, with the protagonist goofing off with his camera were very badly handled. That just won't happen without the smart ass students as well as the teacher getting in your face about it, and most teachers would confiscate the camera, but no one says a word. Picture having a conversation on your telephone in a classroom. How ridiculous would that be? Also, Patrick's character, spying on everyone with his camera, looking up girl's dresses, masturbating in the girl's washroom, without being seen, heard, or getting in trouble, not to mention abducting a screaming 10 year old in a crowded supermarket, hauling her into the washroom where he rapes and kills her without being seen, heard or caught, is simply just not realistic.
The real crux of the issue however is the suicidal motives of the characters and how they were handled. of the 4 characters who state their cases for WHY they plan to kill themselves: Scott: inner freedom. Sandy: testament to true love. Trudi: domestic discord. Patrick: homicidal urges? None of these are given much background or ANY aside from Trudi's case, though still not convincingly, who ridiculously enough, in all 6 of them is the only one who is shown to have typical problems of depression, the kind you see in most real life suicide cases. The characters, Rick and Cody, who we are given no inner insight into, are wasted, and seem very full of life rather than depression, Particularly Rick, who in this film represents typical quasi hip-hop culture, who doesn't seem to fit in with this group of people at all.
Closing Notes/Film Message
I will close by touching on one of the very last phrases spoken into a camera by the character "Scott" and showing truly how badly the people involved in the making of this film do NOT understand their subject. "Do you want to know the real truth? I did it because I was bored. The number one killer of teenagers today isn't drugs or alcohol... It's just plain boredom.... AND I WAS BORED!". Not only is it hilarious, but it's just plain not true. Any deaths to teenagers caused by boredom result from "Accidental" not "suicidal" deaths such as car crashes, skateboard injuries, auto-asphyxiation or the like. The impulse of suicide tends to come from ANYTHING but boredom, and instead, derives from feeling horrible and emotionally destroyed for whatever causal reasons. True, the character can say anything, and it doesn't matter if it's true or not, but by now, he's been reduced to a talking point with a face, not a character. I watched this horrible film because I was bored, luckily, it did not make me want to kill myself.