Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Capsule Review: Southland Tales

Movie: Southland Tales
Director/Studio: Richard Kelly / Samuel Goldwyn Films
10 Word Review: May God strike me dead, I honestly really liked it.

Best Thing About It: The comedy. The sheer over-the-top, campy, bizarre, melodramatic, bugfuck insane comedy of it all. I haven't laughed that much since Superbad, and it's not like this was Showgirls. It's not "so bad it's good." Kelly intended it it be funny. Or else he belongs in a mental institution. Much like Donnie Darko, unraveling the plot and enjoying the environment and characters in the film don't necessarily have to happen at the same time. There probably isn't as much unraveling to be done here as in Donnie, but who knows? I've only seen it the once. Yet. It's not nearly going to be everybody's cup of tea. Not even close. But it might have been the best time I've had at the movies all year.

Worst Thing About It: There are tonal inconsistencies, and not all of them are bad (the fact that Sarah Michelle Gellar and The Rock seem to be acting in a totally different movie than Seann William Scott and Justin Timberlake ends up making sense), but the paranoid nature of the fascist government of the near-future comes in fits and starts. And while Kelly plainly (and cheerfully)acknowledges the films he's drawing inspiration from (Starship Troopers, Strange Days, a bunch of David Lynch stuff), the stylistic game of hopscotch can seem random and unsatisfying.

Best Performance: God, so many to choose from. Seriously. Miranda Richardson steals all her scenes, ditto Amy Poehler. Seann William Scott is unexpectedly affecting. Mandy Moore nails the movie's best line, while The Rock nails the movie's second-best line. I continue to be very encouraged by Justin Timberlake's burgeoning film career (and the boy manages to make a hideous facial scar look hot). But I have to agree with my boy Jason here: Sarah Michelle Gellar comes to play. I had forgotten how deftly she handled whenever Buffy called upon her to play against the Slayer type (alternate realities, personality-changing spells, the Bot), and this is definitely the first time she's lived up to that potential in a movie. She's fall-out hysterical, too.

Oscar Prospects: There are, of course, none, so I'll utilize this space to talk about more aspects of the film that I loved. If it sounds like a mishmash of weirdo vignettes and kind of is. But if you connect a few of the dots by the end, a lot of it really starts making sense, so I guess it is like Donnie Darko that way. Anyhoo: cameos by Eli Roth, cutting-room victim Janeane Garofalo, and Kevin Smith, the latter of whom is made up to look like Orson Welles. Beth Grant and Zelda Rubenstein constantly appearing out of nowhere in the background and looking like they just got done shooting the final fifteen minutes of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. The phrase (and hit single) "teenage horniness is not a crime." JT, soaked in blood, lip-synching The Killers while one-upping Across The Universe in a most serious way. I just...the more I think about it, the more I adore it. Warts and all. Flaws and all. I'm so glad it'll be on DVD by the end of the month, considering how hardcore it bombed.

Grade: A- (seriously)

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