Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Southland Tales

I saw Southland Tales last night, which was unbelievably strange and quite the mess. I wanted to see it because it was the follow up film by Richard Kelly, the man behind Donnie Darko, which is still my favorite cult film of the last several years. I really love Donnie Darko. Really. But not enough to forgive Southland Tales.

The movie’s story is hardly worth going into, which is convenient as I can barely put it all together. The film is a sprawling catastrophe and parade of former and current SNL players as well as Kevin Smith, Will Sasso, Wallace Shawn, Mandy Moore and, of course, the Rock and Buffy. And the only kid from American Pie who still has a career. There’s something about a bomb going off in the beginning, a lot of political jabs and slightly futuristic vibes (the film takes place in 2008), and, for some reason, lyrics from Jane’s Addiction’s song “Three Days”—an epic song revolving around the lead singer’s menagie a tois—are, in the context of this alternate reality, prophetic and deep. I fell asleep around the point where Wallace Shawn was going to unleash some sort of fury via his zeppelin, though it all gets kind of foggy for me. Even in my most alert moments of viewing, the movie felt hazy and awkward. The dialogue was laughable and the direction was mediocre, which is sinful considering the wonderful things Kelly did with his last film. Maybe I ought to go back and watch Donnie Darko again and see if there was anything stunning about the camera work. I’m a little afraid to do so.

The film bites off a lot and can’t chew it. I’m not one to dismiss things outright, but twenty minutes in I was ready to turn it off, though I decided to go the distance (I failed, mi vida made it the whole way). I laughed a few times, though I’m not sure I was supposed to be laughing at those moments. I was bored often. Really I admire this kind of ambition. Ambition is always used in criticism pejoratively. I don’t employ the term that way, but in this case we have an example of ambition run amuck and, sadly, running nowhere. Let’s hope The Box, which Kelly just wrapped up filming, fairs better.