Friday, April 10, 2009

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Back to the Cinema!

Yes, yes, yes, I had actually quite a bit of free time this week! Trips to the bank, laundry, dishes, returning books to the library, getting through more chapters of Bryan Burroughs' Public Enemies (a great, entertaining read -- I rarely care for non-fiction but hoo-ah, what a story!). And, because I am still a fan of film, I carved out some time to mosey on over to the campus theater to catch a free screening of Observe and Report.

It took me a while to get into this movie, I admit. Seth Rogen plays Ronnie, a mall cop with delusions of grandeur, who finally sees a chance to prove himself as the kick-ass shit-ender he claims to be when the mall is hit by both a flasher and an after-hours thief. And there's nothing really to love about him. He's a bipolar sociopath who isn't above resorting to horribly inappropriate levels of violence to get the job done. Even if the job is completely in his head.

So, it is hilarious, yes, but it is also a little tough to get through. Ronnie is simultaneously likable and unlikable, someone who you want to succeed in an underdog sort of way, but also someone you hope gets put away for a long time. And this is subtly done by writer-director Jody Hill (The Foot-Fist Way), who cleverly puts this psychotic undertone to what could have been just another lovable buffoon flick. Rogen delivers, never winking at the camera or allowing any sympathy for Ronnie. I mean, the audience was rooting for him, but I didn't feel like we had to.

Michael Pena is hilarious as Ronnie's equally deranged right-hand man, and Collette Wolfe was adorable as the coffee shop attendant who always has a smile for Ronnie. I was not as big a fan of Anna Faris in this one, though. I don't know if it was her character or the way she was playing it, but something felt "off" about the performance to me. And being a Faris Fan, that was disappointing to admit.

The ending is bound to be misread. Already some notable critics (and also, Manohla Dargis) have bagged on the film for its finale, perhaps not getting that it is really both a parody of the genre and a commentary on that whole idea of "a time and a place for everything". It's important to know that, in a Jody Hill film, everyone is fucked up.

Oh, the applause for this film! Not just at the end, but every fifteen minutes or so. There are so many moments where you can just stand and declare, "HELL yeah!", and everyone in the theater is right there with you. And maybe that's inappropriate for the subject matter, but it felt so good. I like screenings like these because the audience acts like an audience, cheering and catcalling and yelling, but not in an annoying way, in an immersive, familial, fluid way. Mm, the experience is so fine, like a wine.

Yeah, I recommend Observe and Report. Go in with an open mind, but be prepared -- some shit goes down.

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