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Entries in Somebody Up There Likes Me [2013] (1)

Thursday
Mar072013

Somebody Up There Likes Me (2013)

Bemusement Park

Fucking hipsters. Last night, I answered a knock at my door. Slouched against the frame was a kid in his mid-twenties wearing a replica of Mr. McFeely's costume from the old Mister Rogers' Neighborhood TV show. He mumbled "Speedy delivery", and handed me a long pressboard envelope sealed with a green wax "C". In a flash, he was back on his turn-of-the-century bicycle, frustratedly navigating the icy sidewalk in a way that suggested he hadn't worked so hard all week.

The envelope contained a hard copy of the review you're about to read; several gig flyers for the nerdcore banjo group Sandy Hook Gun Show; and a Cap'n Crunch box top (calligraphed with "Vintage 1983" on the back). In lieu of a cover letter or contact info, the two ringed pages--no doubt typed on a vintage IBM Selectric with an offset "k"--ended at a glitter-pen signature and a crude reproduction of Kurt Vonnegut's "asshole" drawing.

Unfortunately, I won't be able to attend The Music Box Theatre's exclusive premiere event this weekend for Bob Byington's latest movie, but someone apparently got an early look and sent me the following. Presented here, without comment or correction, is "Somebody Up There Likes Me: Being the Strictest of Critical Analyses for the Most Accomplished Accomplishment in the History of Independent Cinema by D.H. Wennington-Howsforth (aka 'Crunchy')".

Love is for fucking idiots and old people (redundancy alert!). But if I HAD to love something it would be Somebody Up There Likes Me, the best English-language film of the last forty-six years. In it, Keith Poulson stars as Max, a guy who finds a magical suitcase one day that makes it so he never grows old. And I don't mean he doesn't just age either--he basically just is in his early 20ies for the rest of his life. Which is great, because he doesn't have to care about anyone the way old people do as they grow old. He's just sassy and doesn't give a shit or have any kind of reaction to anything around him. Alot of movies try to make you care about the main character, but Bob Byington doesn't care if you care, and he refuses to let Max become what the squares might call "a relatable human being".

It's about time a film spoke to MY generation. The way Byington establishes Max's girlfriend Lyla's character (Jess Weixler) as a hot doormat who eats breadsticks all the time is GENIUS because he gets rid of the antique notion that you have to define your characters or commit to doing either a farce or a comedy with something to say. He blurs the lines all over the place so that by the end, nothing's really funny or really effective--which is HILARIOUS. I watched this with a group of acquaintances and we kept looking at each other to see if it was okay to laugh. We sat through the whole movie without cracking a smile. But after the credits, we had a four-hour conversation about why the dry irony was so funny and absolutely lost our fucking minds. My roommate even doubled over when I told him that Max's snarky, above-it-all reaction to Lyla's dad's cancer diagnosis and subsequent suicide was probably the funniest thing he would ever SEE.

In other kinds of movies it would be some big, dramatic deal that Max and Lyla had a kid that Max never made time for or even seemed to care about at all--or that he had a decades-long affair with a hot chick that he eventually hires to be his housekeeper so they could be closer to the bone zone. But SUTLM knows that love is a construct invented by college professors and greeting card companies. So the characters just bounce off of (and in and out of) each other and carry on with no one ever raising their voice or showing emotion.

The only exception is Max's best friend Sal (Nick Offerman) who threatens to de-rail the whole production by interjecting what old people call "wisdom" into the proceedings. Lucky for us, Byington quickly brings him down to Max's level--having him be a pothead and a poon hound who follows Max around pathetically for the whole movie. For a second there, I thought Offerman was going to class up the show by letting his character evolve. But the director kept that shit in check.

Byington does this cool thing where he fast-forwards every five years to see what the characters are up to. This is cool because we get to see Max be more selfish and unable to cope with the fact that everyone he knows just becomes more pathetic with age. Lyla's dad leaves him and Lyla a crap-ton of money, meaning he never has to work at anything to get ahead. Even when the money goes away in a divorce he rebounds 'cause he kept a bunch of it hidden from his wife (ALWAYS a good idea if you're dumb enough to get married). There's this hilarious thing too where Max's kid is always seen wearing a blue button-down shirt and a red baseball cap--even as he grows old every five years. It doesn't make any sense, but that's why you laugh because it's so RANDOM!

The one thing I hated hated HATED about this movie is the fact that you see every girl naked except the one girl you really WANT to see naked. Clarissa (the affair chick, played by Stephanie Hunt--who for some reason begins the movie with a thick Spanish accent that goes away after one scene; again, SO funny). wears alot of bikinis and is always talking about wanting to get fucked. But we never see the goods. I guess she wants to be taken seriously as an actor or whatever, but I had a serious need to see dem tit-tahs (see what I did there?). Maybe its cause Hunt looks like a Spanish Natasha Lyonne before she got fat and crazy, but damn...

Everything else is great, though. Max keeps getting rewarded for being the world's biggest jerk, and everyone around him is a desperate, miserable idiot. The title suggests that he's leading a divinely-granted life or whatever, but that's the biggest punch line--cause Max knows (like EVERYONE who went to school) that there is no god. I think it's great that Byington made a movie that pretends to be about big issues and life changes but doesn't bother to have it make sense to anyone who's actually experienced half the things he depicts.

I had to sit through this bullshit movie once called My Name is Jerry, where this guy goes through a mid-life crisis or whatever. It coulda been awesome, except the main character was a nice, boring dude with problems. Fuck that noise! Max is so much better cause he's mean to everyone he encounters and his level of self-absorption is off the charts. Maybe "grown-ups" wouldn't give him the time of day (much less a job), but he's my fucking hero.

This movie is just like Byington's other flick Registered Sex Offender, but its better. This guy knows how to write smug assholes like nobody's business. And the day he matures as a filmmaker and comes out of his bubble where being a monster isn't something to be cheered for is the day they'll find me hanging from a skinny-jeans noose.