Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

Do you ever watch artsy movies and feel like there are pieces missing? Like a key scene somewhere along the line accidentally ended up on the cutting room floor? Or maybe like everyone in the theater, and on screen, seems to be in on a joke--except for you? I used to think this phenomena was a result of me “just not getting” the movie. Internalizing the confusion, because it must be my fault. I wasn’t Sophisticated enough to follow the style. Therefore, I was missing things.

Then I saw a few David Lynch films.

I started to realize that most art films are like this intentionally. Most viewers get a strange satisfaction out of not getting it. Like they’re being challenged, or something. It is either a conscious decision on the part of the director to leave things open-ended, laziness, or (a lot more likely) just bad filmmaking.

John Krasinski’s (everyone’s much beloved Jim Halpert from NBC’s The Office) directorial debut is a combination of all of these. With a nice little touch of novice on top. However, let’s be clear… this is not a bad movie. It’s just confused.

Heavy with heartfelt, occasionally humorous monologues, the movie feels much more like a play than a movie. With no scene taking place outside of a set larger than my living room (lots of them are in fact living rooms) John, puts the pressure of his actors to take up space on the screen. And they do. There is not a single bad performance in the movie.

The major flaw is that none of these actors are given a chance to interact with each other, and so no chemistry or real excitement is built anywhere.

The other major flaw is how he skews the timing and pacing of the movie. Since, as I said, most of the movie is just monologues, it’s hard to tell what time it is or when these things are taking place. But apparently the timing is important, because our main character, Sara (Julianne Nicholson, yeah, that chick from Law & Order: Criminal Intent) is getting over a breakup… maybe. It’s hard to tell until the end.

The overall plot, I think, is a college girl, Sara, decides to interview a bunch of men about women. Not all of these men realize they’re being interviewed. Sometimes she’s just recording their conversations or conveniently placed monologues. For the most part she tends to focus on guys who are neurotic or self-centered. The actors do a really good job of making these characters feel surprisingly familiar.

Jim, sorry… I mean, John, of course, saves the best monologue for himself. He proceeds to explain all about how a random hookup has completely changed his life and perspective on women. I won’t spoil it for you. But he does, and very successfully so, manage to not be Jim Halpert. Regardless of how hard it is for me to see him as anything else.

Which is pretty damn impressive.

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