Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. Oh, man people are going to hate this movie. And I do mean hate, not “oh, that movie's silly.” We had two people in the audience stand up at the Q&A with director Marjane Satrapi, declare themselves doctors and then chide her for her depiction of mental illness in the movie. There were many walkouts when the first tonal shift happens in the film. And people for some reason just hate Ryan Reynolds. Maybe it's the alliterative name or maybe it's that he's unfortunately been steamrolled in some bad films (I still think he'd make a good Deadpool if they actually ever do really make the character instead of whatever the fuck that thing was in X-Men Origins: Wolverine)... I don't know, but my point is a lot of people don't like him.
Then there are going to be those folks with a macabre sense of humor who will sit in the shadows and quietly appreciate this movie until they realize they're not alone. It might take a while, but as this group begins to see people appreciate the film they'll start to raise their voices of support one after another.
Let me be one of the first to stand up and declare this movie fucking awesome.
Ryan Reynolds plays Jerry, an aw-shucks Jimmy Olsen type who is what I like to call “Mormon nice.” He's just so unnaturally happy and kind that you distrust him. Jerry works at a small town factory packaging bathtubs for shipping purposes. Right off the bat the color palette is bright and cheery, just like Jerry. The score is upbeat and everything has a little Leave it to Beaver sheen.
When Jerry gets home we hear his roommate give him a little shit in the next room, but he laughs it off. It's not too long before we realize that Jerry is a teensy weensy bit mentally disturbed and that this whole cheery outlook is how he perceives the world, not how it actually is. The first clue is when it is revealed he doesn't have a roommate... at least not a human one. The prick with the Irish accent is actually his cat, who likes to tell him to give into his temptations and become a serial killer. His dog, a boxer, is the good angel. He's got a Fred Thompson style lazy southern drawl, but keeps telling Jerry “aw, you're a good boy” and can choose not to be evil.
Jerry struggles with this. We know he has to meet with a court-appointed psychiatrist (played by the great Jacki Weaver) for some reason, but we don't know why up front. She seems genuinely concerned for Jerry and the audience is with her at that point... or at least I was. This was about 10 minutes before the walkouts began.
Reynolds plays Jerry so likable that the beginning comes off as a straight comedy with a dude and his talking cat and dog, but then an accident happens that sends Jerry spiraling down the rabbit hole he's been trying to climb out of since childhood and things get really fucked up.
The dark comedy transitions to pure horror a couple of times as we slip out of Jerry's point of view and suddenly the bright and cheery movie becomes a David Fincher's SE7EN-esque horror show. This shocks Jerry as much as it does us the one time he actually sees the world for what it is thanks to the medication he reluctantly gets back on.
Joining Reynolds in the cast are Gemma Arterton and Anna Kendrick, who is pretty much the Queen of Sundance 2014 with at least three films at the fest... fitting since I vividly remember seeing her in Rocket Science here in 2007 and thinking “that girl is going to be huge.”
Kendrick has been good in non-comedic roles before, but this is the first time I think I've seen her really let go in a horror setting. That's only for one portion of the movie, though, so don't worry. Her particular trademarked adorable and funny charm is front and center.
The whole supporting cast is good, but Reynolds really gives 110% here. His portrayal of Jerry is exhausting in its layers. There's the Jerry he presents to the world (the person he wants to be) and then there's the evil laying under the surface. It's not the transition back and forth between these two personas, it's the gray area between that really shows his dedication to the character. In-between the light and dark is a muddied confused and scared persona and that's when he's the most sympathetic.
The talking animals (both voiced by Reynolds, by the way... IMDB lists different actors, but the credits on the film say it was Reynolds) are just the tip of the iceberg, by the way. The other things that begin speaking to him throughout the course of the movie really take the movie up to another level... and clearly some audience members were not willing to stay on that particular train.
I won't talk about the ending, but I will say that a musical number does propel us into the credits. That's the kind of movie it is, so I can't even wrap my brain around those that took the movie as seriously as they did. For a dark comedy it explored mental illness about as thoroughly as you could hope for. Despite every awful thing Jerry does over the course of the movie he never lost me, especially when you see what caused the crack in his psyche. I related to him, which is really fucked up when I look back on the movie as a whole. I swear I don't have any heads in my fridge, folks. Don't call the cops on me!
But yes, people will have a strong reaction to this movie. I have to say, director Marjane Satrapi handled the loaded Qs with an enthusiastic and sharp wit. Perhaps the Sundance audience was confused because she also directed the Oscar nominated Persepolis (and wrote the original comic it is based on) and now here's this violent and vulgar dark comedy that you could more easily believe was made by the South Park guys than the lady behind Persepolis.
She was actually asked about making two such radically different movies and her response was that she was in her early 40s, she's a heavy smoker and the way she sees it she has maybe 30 years left on this earth. At a rate of 1 movie every 2 years that means she only gets 15 more stories to tell, so she's going to have fun trying different things that speak to her.
I really dug the movie after I saw it and as I was writing about it here I found myself loving it more and more. So, when you guys finally get a chance to see this thing, the half of you that adore it know that you have a friend in me.
Now I just need to find someone to send me an MP3 of that closing credits O'Jays cover...
Make sure to Follow Me On Twitter while I continue my movie exploration at the Sundance Film Fest for my immediate thoughts on the crazy shit I stumble across while here in Park City!