Sunday, August 23, 2009
Cast: Seth Rogen, Ray Liotta, Michael Peña, Anna Farris, Celia Weston
Director: Jody Hill
Runtime: 86 min.
Verdict: A film that is unconventional for the sake of being unconventional and ends up being predictable.
Genre: Comedy, Drama
I suppose we had it coming. I believe Quentin Tarantino is a great filmmaker. I mean, as a master craftsman. His films always feel like little blessings in times of utter mediocrity, but I often wonder if they exist in a vacuum. I mean, what do his films represent, apart from say a criticism on the conventionalities of cinema, and a celebration of cinephilia? What do his shots represent? What do the choices of his music represent? What do his characters tell us? They are gloriously entertaining but I wonder if they exist, as Paul Schrader says here, in a void of meaning. I mean absolutely no disrespect, I myself am not sure of what my stance is on the relevance of Tarantino, but I do wonder if everything about Tarantino can be understood as merely the most well-intentioned cinephilia.
Of course, never does Tarantino claim otherwise, and his films exist only to serve as a blast of a time. And they are, the most gloriously made genre offerings, with the most colorful of characters. Tarantino, unlike all of his imitators, loves his characters, cares for them, and that is why there is a certain depth to them, a certain irony to them, that is non-existent elsewhere. His films are worthy of its characters. Observe and Report is no such film, an empty film with scant regard for its characters, and what they might be feeling. I have often observed that such a film often ends up disregarding its audiences too. This one, directed by Mr. Hill, has absolutely no feel for pacing, has no feel for its moments and instead feels as if it is pushing itself on its characters.
Ronnie (Mr. Rogen) is a mall-cop and a penis-flasher is stalking women across the mall. He comes, he flashes and he runs away. Ronnie takes this as a moment to show the world what he truly is, and to also impress Brandi (Ms. Farris), a cosmetic-girl at the mall, who is nothing more than an assortment of bimbo-features. It is appalling. Tarantino cites Taxi Driver as one of his favorite films, and looks at it as something that is funny, probably the most desired reaction I believe. Intellectually and objectively I mean. Observe and Report takes it one step further and tries to make a consciously comic film, rather a satire, with dysfunctionality the order of the day. The satire is on what, I don’t know. Mr. Hill claims that he was influenced by the Scorsese masterpiece, and it is quite apparent. Does Mr. Hill intend to file his criticisms based on that little facet of our urban culture every orthodox moralist beats the hell out of – the shopping mall? I think so, but there is too little substance in the film, there is too little of any observation upon which Mr. Hill can claim a satirical laugh on. His characters are weird, and unconventional, and they might even surprise you for the first few minutes. But a look further, and you see a pattern, where every little incident has been calibrated and designed to go against the norm. And it gets so tiring one can even predict the dialogs in a given situation. Pay attention to the mother. She is a walking-talking model of haphazardly patterned weirdness, with absolutely no heart to her.
The film is absolutely unworthy of its characters. I wish there was a different film that would have captured these lives, but in here, you cringe as they revel in the smug nature of their dysfunction. The only one you really care about is a sweet little coffee-girl on a wheel-chair, Nell (Ms. Wolfe), and she is the heart of the film. The others, well, let us just say they are unmemorable. Mr. Rogen is a fine actor, and it is a fine performance. And he is wasted. Mr. Hill is attempting something along the lines of A Clockwork Orange meets Taxi Driver, with carefully calibrated sadism, but he is not courageous enough to ask any questions. Maybe courage is not the issue. Maybe, he just hasn’t observed enough to gain any level of insight. And he is pretending, trying to come off as if he is double daring the conventions. The thing is, Mr. Hill is merely playing to the gallery. That gallery we should all be wary off at the movies, who I suspect don’t really love the movies, but actually want to come off as cool and sophisticated. Stephanie Zacharek hits it right on the money here. QT might have caused a revolution we all are still celebrating but the side effects are a bunch of imitators who better grow up and actually realize why QT works.
Posted by Satish Naidu at 12:56 PM