Wednesday, July 28, 2010

You'll Be Pulverized... To Dust... By Monday...

There are certain movies that, coming down the pike, seem tailor-made to suit me. Y'all know which ones they are if you visit here with any regularity because I ramble about every tiny detail that presents itself with the passion and fury only an unrepentant fan-boy (or fan-girl) can muster. This Summer there have been two shining beacons coming up from the depths of a doubtful cinematic landscape - Chris Nolan Inception and Edgar Wright's Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. And I don't really want to compare these two movies because they really have nothing in common - besides maybe a desire to deconstruct some portion of cinematic language in new, interesting, batshit-bonkers ways - but as I've mulled over what to say about Pilgrim I keep coming back to Inception. And it's really only the superficial fact that these were my 2010 Summer Movie Beacons that's got them mixed up in my head, and how one of them didn't quite live up to the promise it had made to my heart, while here and now the second one has. Inception as a puzzle-box, folding in on itself, is an interesting experiment that ultimately left me sort of cold. It has rooms inside of rooms inside of rooms but I don't think the nesting-egg ever finds its center. There is no center.

A lot of people are probably going to argue - they're already starting to and they haven't even seen the movie yet - that Scott Pilgrim's lacking a definable center as well. That Scott is too inactive an active participant in his own story. That he's too ironically removed or detached or I don't know, I've seen these words thrown around. (sidenote: It's all a shorthand of bitching about Michael Cera playing Michael Cera again, as if Cary Grant was never just Cary Grant a dozen times over. For the record, I love Michael Cera and that thing that he does and his performance here as Mr. Pilgrim, while identifiably belonging to his roster of smirking sweet unsure boy-men, is actually a simultaneous nod at and a deconstruction of his image. I'd liken it to Jimmy Stewart's performance in Vertigo, I would, where it's recognizably Jimmy Stewart there, being Jimmy Stewart, but the edges are frayed and coming unraveled and revealing the weaknesses underneath. In other words, I think for me this will be Cera's defining performance.) I've seen these complaints tossed around only now that I'm allowing myself to read the reviews - I stayed away until I saw the film for myself. Anyway when I saw the film myself, without this cacophony of bleating in my brain, never once did I think in the entire however-many-minutes-long the movie is that Scott lacked participation in his story.

But here I am, starting this review out on the wrong foot, setting up straw-men to KO when all I wanna do is celebrate how great I think the film turned out. Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World is a joy, from that 8-bit Universal logo at the start to the closing frame. I don't think anything will ever topple Shaun of the Dead from its fixed-spot at the top of my appreciations for Edgar Wright's work, but this is his most accomplished film, and the second it was over all I wanted to do was watch it again immediately, and I looked unto the Heavens and cursed the Gods that I have to wait another three weeks or so until it's out for real so I can do just that.

There is a real heart beating at the center of this film. It might not share the bombast of trumpet-blare that tried to force a love out of dewy-eyed close-ups of Leonardo Dicaprio and Marion Cotillard. But all of Scott's off-center relationships - between him and Knives, or him and his band-mates, or him and Wallace, or him and his sister, or ultimately him and Ramona - thump with sweet clarity. Scott might not know what he's doing at some points or why or even how, but Edgar Wright knows, and delivers a bulls-eye on every count.

And oh boy is he helped by a firing-on-cylinders-I-don't-think-they-even-knew-they-had cast - they're all having so much fun that I don't even know who to shout out to first. How about Kieran Culkin, stealing not just every scene he's in but every shot? Or Chris Evans, who had me howling from his first line (and oh how I long to quote it, but I'll leave it for y'all to experience yourselves). Mary Elizabeth Winstead proves she's got moves we've never seen, deepening her voice and making us, like Scott, fall for her even as she throws all her faults right up front. Oh but then in swoops Mae Whitman, her every line and nudge and wink and face-punch a big bad ball of fun. And then there's Brandon Routh being a sexy arrogant nightmare of a super-prick. Every side-eyed throwaway shot over to Allison Pill's a pleasure. Young Neil forever! And Ellen Wong brings more hysterical teenage sweetness to Knives than I even got from the page. Scott's limpid limp-dick behavior towards her cuts sharp and the film doesn't shy away from it.

Yes the film's manic and riddled with ADD and shot up with spurts of hipsterish sarcasm and silliness - it is oh so silly - and I don't fully know how somebody else might take any of it, but from where I sat it was a nearly perfect amalgamation of not only itself - it's no series of mirrors reflecting riddles like Inception - but of a generation. The good and the bad and the big bad and the prettified fantasized ugly. It is its own world but like all good fantasy it reflects some genuine truths, and sorts out a path through the magnified wilderness. It might not work for everybody, but it led me to a happy happy place like, sorta like home.


Unknown said...

Ok. I will go see it and wait for Inception to come out on DVD.

Simon said...

Am I the only one who loved the line "And I'm a little bi-furious!". I feel so alone in loving that cheesy awesomeness.