REVIEW: Killer Joe

12 09 2012

Some people would say that a movie that makes you feel dirty and disgusting is an effective movie.  That may be true, because William Friedkin’s NC-17 “Killer Joe” made me want to take a shower as soon as I got home from the theater.  But just because the presentation of abhorrent material was equally abhorrent does not make the movie good, or enjoyable.

While I’ve started to reverse my thinking on Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life,” my original assessment seems to be applicable for Friedkin’s film.  I used such phrases as “the whole was less than the sum of its parts” and “While I can see the art […] I can’t see the clear execution of a vision.”  Other than the movie’s two shocking displays of perverse sexual behavior (which you don’t deserve to have spoiled for you in case you actually decide to watch “Killer Joe”), the film brings little else to the table.

The other hour and a half of the film is just filler to bring about the two discussion-worthy scenes.  I acknowledge that a movie that tries and succeeds to be shocking is an accomplishment.  But being shocking just for the sake of being shocking is nothing to be lauded.

A movie that exists solely to ruffle a few feathers and rattle a few cages doesn’t stick with you after the writhing and squirming in your seat.  The sordidness is ephemeral; it wears off quickly.  And once that feeling is gone, you look to see if it was justified or vindicated by the rest of the film.  Here, it is not.

The Tracy Letts’ screenplay is clunky and feel very stagey and distinctly non-cinematic.  The humor, dark and macabre, is extremely hit or miss; all the laughs come with a heaping side order of guilt.  I will give “Killer Joe” that it has two solid performances: a demonic leading turn from Matthew McConaughey in the year of his career renaissance as a sexually depraved hitman, and a delightful village idiot character played with an appropriate lack of urgency by Thomas Haden Church.  But that’s where my compliments come to a close because this movie isn’t about those things.  It’s about being knowingly repulsive for no other reason because they can be, indulgent art at its worst.  D+

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REVIEW: Easy A

20 09 2010

Finally, I get a high school movie for my time in high school!

For the past three years, we’ve been left quoting “Mean Girls” left and right, yelling out “She doesn’t even go here!” in situations when it doesn’t even make sense and putting on the strict face of authority to say, “If you have sex, you will get chlamydia – and die” whenever the practically taboo topic is brought up.  We get all the jokes now, but in 2004, high school was as foreign a place as Afghanistan.  Even in the six years since Tina Fey’s first big splash (and Lindsay Lohan’s last big splash), high school has changed, and we can thank Facebook, YouTube, and iPhones for that.

I was afraid that I might graduate high school with only a dated high school movie to show my kids what it was like to be my age in 2010.  Thanks to “Easy A,” such concerns are no more.  It’s a near perfect reflection of the realities of living in a sphere where gossip travels as quickly as text messages can be sent over a 3G connection and reputations can be ruined in the split-second it takes to update a Facebook status.

It’s also remarkable that while the movie is very current, it isn’t entirely grounded in 2010.  It takes a page from one of American literature’s finest, “The Scarlet Letter,” and plops it down in front of a webcam.  And darned if we aren’t convinced that Nathaniel Hawthorne would have vodcasted his classic story through YouTube had it existed back in the nineteenth century.  The movie is a testament not just to the creativity of the writers of “Easy A,” but also to Hawthorne for spawning a story that is still relevant centuries after publication.

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REVIEW: All About Steve

25 01 2010

Sandra Bullock got a lot of press for her movies in 2009, and it has followed us into 2010 as well.  She chose three distinctly different films: a romantic comedy (“The Proposal”), an inspirational sports drama (“The Blind Side”), and a more off-beat comedy (“All About Steve”).  And in each of these movies, she portrayed a wide range of women.  In “The Proposal,” she played a woman who discovers that she needs more than corporate success to fill the void that a family leaves.  In “The Blind Side,” she has received acclaim for her performance as Leigh Anne Tuohy, the mother on a mission to give opportunity to a deserving child.  Most people are so enamored by those two that they are willing to turn a blind eye to the scorned “All About Steve,” where Bullock enters more familiar territory by playing a bumbling klutz who falls madly and hopelessly head-over-heels for a guy who couldn’t care less about her.

Despite what you may think the movie “All About Steve,” it’s hard to take great fault with Bullock’s performance.  She makes the best of a horrifically written character, refusing to lay down and die.  By no stretch of the imagination am I saying that the goofy crossword puzzle crafter Mary belongs in the same league as Gracie Hart (“Miss Congeniality”) or Lucy Kelson (“Two Weeks Notice”) – and it shouldn’t be mentioned in the same sentence as the racist Los Angeles housewive Jean Cabot from “Crash.”  We can wonder all we want about why she chose this movie, but it’s total face plant is not her fault.

Blame unimaginative writing.  Blame pretty much everyone else in the cast who is in this movie to collect a nice paycheck – I’m talking to you, Thomas Haden Church and Bradley Cooper.  When even Ken Jeong, the highlight of “The Hangover” with his hilarious Leslie Chow, can’t invigorate a movie, you know that things are pretty darn bad.  D /