I was going to spend today doing something I mentioned a few days ago- talking about the recent push toward 3D entertainment. And my thoughts on that. But I’ve decided to push that to another day, because today I want to rant a bit about the movie I just watched (Mr. Nobody) and indie films in general. You know, the ones that are the darlings of film festivals around the world.
Well, I have something to say about them: Most of them are rubbish. Pretentious, pretentious rubbish.
This Mr. Nobody is no different.
It seemed a promising enough premise when I first heard about it. A story about the multiverse, about the effect our choices have on the course of our lives. It was lauded as a smart and touching science fiction film dealing with quantum mechanics and the question of identity.
For the record, nothing I just said was wrong (except maybe the part about it being smart). All of those things were present in the film. In one way or another. And yet, I feel like I just wasted two hours of my life. I kept hoping it would get better. That some of the supposed “genius” of this work would eventually come to light. That it would transcend the sappy, overly stylized beginnings.
About twenty minutes in (after being made uncomfortable by Jared Leto’s dead fish eyes- I’m sorry, but that man is not capable of a great range of emotion onscreen as it is, and it almost never presents itself in his eyes… yet film makers seem obsessed with his baby blues), I was bored with the overall feel of the film. You want to know why?
Because I’ve already seen Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I had no desire to see a knock-off.
This keeps happening. A film comes out that’s original- fresh and creative and meaningful. And then everyone else tries to imitate it, without realizing that what made that film so great was the fact that it was unique and new. Subsequent forays into the exact same type of world will never match the charm of the original. They will fall flat.
Tim Burton is a great example of someone who is beating an interesting concept to death. His dark and strange film style was interesting at first. But now? I have no desire to go see Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter play the same characters again and again. I have no desire to see everyone in corsets and black lace.
Film festival fodder keeps doing this. And it pisses me off. Because, you know what? Yeah, I’m a bit pretentious. I like artsy films. I like movies that are slower paced and make you think and please the eye and leave you with questions when the credits roll. I do. The whole reason I watch these indie flicks is because I’m looking for something Hollywood doesn’t always give me. Heart. Soul. Ingenuity. Novel plot lines. Complicated characters. Depth.
But indie film makers, I want you to hear this. Because you are the ones who spend so much of your time bitching about Hollywood and how they never do anything original and how they just keep remaking the same movies again and again in order to make money. I want you to hear me very clearly when I say this:
You fuckers are doing it, too.
Mr. Nobody is a very good example of this. It’s been extremely well-received at film festivals in Toronto and Venice. I can imagine most of the artsy hipsters I know watching this and thinking it’s amazing and so deep and meaningful, man.
But here’s the truth. Take Donnie Darko. Replace Jake Gyllenhaal with Jared Leto (while they tend to remind me of one another, Leto is a far less talented actor than Mr. Gyllenhaal). Add in elements of The Butterfly Effect (thankfully, don’t include Ashton Kutcher) and a smidgen of The Matrix (they literally reference a character called THE ARCHITECT at one point in this movie, which is just painful), The Fountain, and The Fifth Element. Place the whole thing in the style/world of Eternal Sunshine. Then, take the already confusing and fragmented nature of what you have and chop it up more by adding in Memento.
And now you have Mr. Nobody.
Seriously, I spent this whole movie comparing it to other films and finding it lacking in every way. Even the fact that it’s basically about the nature of time couldn’t hold my interest. Mostly because the descriptions of time and science were really watered down and tossed in to blatantly tell the audience what they should be getting out of the movie. It didn’t give me any room to stretch my brain and really think about what the film meant. About the questions it evoked. Mostly because the only question of any substance that I was left with was, “What makes you you? And how can you prove you really exist?”
Which is a question I’m tired of. Fucking existentialism (note that I’m pretty much an existentialist, but I’m tired of talking about it- it’s the “cool” topic among twenty-somethings)…
Actually, it’s not that I’m tired of the question. I’m just tired of it being used as a sort of intellectual status symbol. “Oh, I question my identity and existence. Aren’t I deep and full of thoughts?”
Frankly, I think it’s a topic that’s been broached better in the past. One of my favorite examples of this was in Doctor Who (shut up and deal- it’s a great show), when Nine regenerated to Ten and Ten explained what happened to Rose. “I changed myself. Every single cell in my body. But I’m still me.” Which was a very subtle approach. If you’ve changed every cell in your body, can you really still be you? What constitutes the self? What makes you… you?
See? It touched on the issue, opening the door to allow the viewer to think about it. To encourage people to think, but without forcing the issue down their throats. DW, you’re doing it right.
Mr. Nobody is a hell of a disappointment. It tries to take complex concepts (like entropy and the multiverse and the expansion of the universe) and water them down to fit in with some bizarre little love story. A love story which, as usually happens in romantic films, seems to be based on nothing more than sunbeams and cool breezes. You know, insubstantial, invisible things. Things that are not actually love.
So… yeah. I don’t recommend this film at all. You want to see a complicated, intelligent film dealing with the nature of time (and without the romantic bullshit and sappy, sentimental ending)? Go watch Primer. It’s fantastic.