Tuesday, April 16, 2013

(Longer Than) A Week of Kevin Smith, Part Nine - "Red State"

"Red State" made it to number two! This makes number one obvious, but we'll get to that. Let's focus on how and why I found myself putting this film as the runner-up to the top spot.

First, this is my kind of film. Whether or not I like the content or every element of it, it's the kind of film that challenges the sentiments of many movie-goers, and does so in a competent and interesting way. Some people hail this film as one of Smith's best. Others describe it as being uninspired and lacking strong direction.

I always say that I like things that are different. This is very different. Not just for Smith but for films in general. While those who don't particularly like this film will often find ways to justify why they think it's either too obvious or too strange (which seems contradictory) I will talk about the things this film does right.

And the first is that it goes away from conventions quickly and never returns to them. While you might read complaints about how this movie is by the book, you should immediately question if the reviewer was actually watching the movie.

The film veers off course very quickly, only spending the first act setting up the trio of typical sex-crazed teenage boys, only to let you know that these three are not the main characters. The movie than moves on to a place where there is not really a discernible main character, save for John Goodman, who isn't even necessarily the focus of the movie.

The movie's structure, like its characters, veers in many different directions, all while giving you sneak peeks into the sordid world being portrayed here. The movie is all over the place, whether you like it or not. And that makes me giddy. I love when a movie goes out of its way to be different. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. Making a movie like that can lead people to want to go after you and complain about that very notion (though when their favorite filmmakers do the same thing, they generally go silent.) And it's okay to not like the final product, but even where this film might fail for people, I hope they appreciate the attempt.

And, again, the movie doesn't fail for me. I rather enjoy every element of it; from the fact that you jump around from character to character to a really messed up climax to a wonderful bureaucratic meeting at the end that will make you hate people. It's just a fun film, and a film that doesn't take itself too seriously in its attempts to stretch and move out of the range of the filmmaker's normal repertoire of tricks.

Outside of the structure, I think the appeal for people, both lovers and haters, is Michael Parks. Chilling barely begins to describe his performance, which makes you uncomfortable, frightened, enthralled, and worried all at the same time. His channeling of a Fred Phelps-type is shocking and amazing and I loved every moment he was on screen. He singlehandedly took me to the edge of my seat and wouldn't let me take my eyes off of him.

Of course, John Goodman was likeable as always, and really the only character you find yourself rooting for. I was glad to see him in this film, myself being a big, big fan of his, and the range of emotions his poor character has to endure in this film as he's pulled in so many directions by various events is communicated quite well by Mr. Goodman.

The rest of the cast is fine, but the show is taken and completely owned by Parks.

I think, in terms of blood and guts, the movie is tame by the standards of horror films today, though the context of some of the killings can be enough to make people uncomfortable. While I don't think the Westboro Baptist Church is actually committed this kind of crime (by all accounts, they seem to be peaceful assholes) you definitely find yourself wanting to stay far away from them (more than you already did anyway) after viewing this film. Smith crafts a story that tells of an all too believable level of horror that you don't want to imagine being real, yet can't help to ponder.


Brit W.

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