I suppose most people who have heard of Bobcat Goldthwait know him as the stand-up comedian with the high-pitched scream. Or perhaps they know him because he was in 3 of the Police Academy movies. (“I did Police Academy 4 because there were so many unanswered questions from Police Academy 2 and 3.”) Actually, despite the persona, he was a pretty socially conscious stand-up. However, he doesn’t do that any more, he now writes and directs (but does not star in) indie films. He got off to a rough start with Shakes the Clown in 1991 but got a lot of attention (and some good reviews) with 2009′s World’s Greatest Dad, starring Robin Williams as a father capitalizing on the death of his son. This year, he’s brought us God Bless America.
Frank is a middle-aged man who, seemingly in the course of a day, loses his job and finds out he has terminal brain cancer. Fed up with everything he sees on TV, from screaming political commentators to reality shows to “American Superstarz” (an American Idol parody), he goes on a killing spree.
I wish I was a super-genius inventor and could come up with a way to make a telephone into an explosive device that was triggered by the American Superstarz voting number. The battery could explode and leave a mark on the face, so I could know who to avoid talking to before they even talked. I could look and say, “No, you’re not going to be saying anything that’s going to be adding any value to my life.” It’s not nice to laugh at someone who’s not all there. It’s the same type of freakshow distraction that comes along every time a mighty empire starts collapsing. American Superstarz is the new Coliseum and I won’t participate by watching a show where the weak are torn apart every week for our entertainment. I’m done, really. Everything is so cruel now, I just want it all to stop. I mean, nobody talks about anything any more. They just regurgitate everything they see on TV or hear on the radio or watch on the web. When was the last time you had a real conversation with someone without somebody texting or looking at a screen or a monitor over your head? A conversation about something that wasn’t celebrities, gossip, sports or pop politics? … I get it. And I am offended. Not because I’ve got a problem with bitter predictable whiny millionaire disc jockeys complaining about celebrities or how tough their life is while I live in an apartment with paper thin walls next to a couple of neanderthals who instead of a baby decided to give birth to some kind of nocturnal civil defense air raid siren that goes off every fucking night like it’s Pearl Harbor. I’m not offended that they pretend that it’s my responsibility to defend their rights to pick on the weak like pack animals or that we’re supposed to support their freedom of speech when they don’t give a fuck about yours or mine.
I think the above, a speech delivered by Frank about 15 minutes into the film is really well written but it also highlights the problems with this film. The first is that the film basically stops dead at several moments like these for these diatribes that would work better as stand-up comedy (in the classic Lenny Bruce vein) than film. It’s also always a problem when a filmmaker has to tell you the premise, to make sure you “get it,” rather than reveal it to you through the film. And in this case, once the premise is stated the film has nowhere to go.
Things go downhill even further when high school student Roxy tags along with Frank, helping him with his killings and delivering a diatribe of her own halfway through the film, mostly about why Alice Cooper was the most important rock star of all time – a diatribe that one could easily accept from a 50 year old man (even if it’s wrong) but from a supposed-to-be 16 year old girl in 2012? Seriously Bobcat, come on. The parodies of reality TV, Rush Limbaugh and Jersey Shore that come early in the film are spot on but they’re soon left in the dust so that Goldthwait can make his point over and over and over again, just in case you didn’t get it the first 5 times. Goldthwait is trying so hard to make his point that he doesn’t even try to make the plot that believable. So while I can agree with that point, that doesn’t equate to a good film.
Joel Murray (brother of Bill) does an excellent restrained job playing Frank. Tara Lynne Barr (not the daughter of Roseanne) does an admirable job with the thankless role of Roxy. Look fast and you’ll see Larry Miller and Mo Gaffney in small roles.
I wanted to like this film because I’m a Bobcat Goldthwait fan and I agree with what he’s trying to say here. I just wish he’d found a better way to say it.
The other day we watched The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a low budget film that was an unexpected $100 million box office hit in the U.S. It’s a British film that that British do so well – feel good uplifting tales like that one about the cops who pose for a calendar or the kid who wants to be a dancer or almost anything with Hugh Grant. It comes to us from John Madden, not the U.S. sportscaster but the British director of Shakespeare in Love. And it has an amazing cast – Tom Wilkinson, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Ronald Pickup, Celia Imrie and Dev Patel. Plus the beautiful Bollywood actress Tena Desae.
Here’s the story: 7 somewhat elderly people in England have hit retirement age and find out that their money doesn’t go that far. Via the internet, they find an ad for “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel For the Beautiful and Elderly”, located in Jaipur, India. And so they all head there – the film makes the claim that they’re out-sourcing their retirement to India, which sounds good but isn’t strictly true. Of course the hotel is much less than it appears to be from its web site. Hilarity ensues.
On the one hand, these 7 people (plus Patel, from Slumdog Millionaire, as the hotel’s proprietor) are cardboard cut-outs. They’re stereotypes through and through. Tom Dashwood’s retired judge has a surprise up his sleeve but that’s revealed relatively early in the film. Every other character and every bit of plot is entirely predictable. And yet …
On the other hand, the cast puts everything they’ve got into this slim screenplay. Dench and Wilkinson have never been better. They effortlessly rise above the material. Trying to resist them is hopeless – I found myself cheering for (most of) them. And Madden, together with cinematographer Ben Davis, does such a good job of portraying Jaipur. Okay, I’ve never been there. But after watching this film, I feel as if I could make my way around that city without a map.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel may suffer from a weak script but the great cast and Madden make the stay in this crumbling hotel an enjoyable one.
In brief: also watched Blitz. Because even though I know that most Jason Statham movies are B movies, for the most part they’re very good B movies. This one’s just okay. It’s not an action film, it’s a police procedural about a nutjob who’s going around killing cops. Decently directed, good supporting cast, but aside from the gore there’s little here to differentiate this from a TV movie.