Friday, March 21, 2008

Southland Tales: Another entry in the "Movies I don't understand" list

I don't know if this will count as a real review, but I had to talk about it, since it's so ridiculous.

Southland Tales
Directed by Richard Kelly

So, yeah, I don't get this movie, but it's pretty entertaining nonetheless. It's some sort of post-apocalyptic Orwellian future that kind of comments on current events, but it seems more like a showcase for indulgent weirdness, with much less focus than Richard Kelly's celebrated debut, Donnie Darko. There are a ton of plot threads, involving Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as a movie star who married into a political family and ends up in the sway of Sarah Michelle Gellar, a porn star/pop singer/actress/Paris Hilton-esque famous person who is involved with a group of "Neo-Marxist" revolutionaries that are trying to blackmail some Presidential candidates played by John Larroquette and Holmes Osborne (the dad from Donnie Darko). Also, Osborne's wife, Miranda Richardson, runs a government agency called USIdent, monitoring everything going on in the world behind a bank of monitors. And there's also Seann William Scott, playing twin brothers, one of whom is posing as the other and involved in the blackmail scheme. And Justin Timberlake narrates, mostly quoting from the book of Revelations, while he sits behind a giant gun and watches everything.

Yeah, not a lot of it makes much sense, but there are some pretty crazy scenes and some nice performances, especially Johnson, who alternates between William Shatner action-star vocal delivery and Woody Allen-esque nervousness. My favorite scene involved a dream sequence in which Timberlake dances through a skee-ball arcade wearing a bloody shirt, drinking beer and lip-syncing to The Killers' "All These Things that I've Done" (the one that goes "I've got soul but I'm not a soldier"), accompanied by a bunch of girls in sexy nurse outfits and Marilyn Monroe wigs. Hey, why not?

Kelly is definitely trying to go for some political commentary, with explicit mentions of Iraq, George W. Bush, election fraud, civil liberties, and the Patriot Act, but all that kind of gets buried under a bunch of pseudo-scientific junk about time travel and rifts in the fourth dimension. But hey, it ends with a guy shooting at a "megazeppelin" with a rocket launcher while standing on a flying ice cream truck, so there's that. I wouldn't really recommend it to anybody, but I'm glad I watched it, just for the "that's kind of cool" and "what the fuck?!" moments. Enjoy, if it sounds like your sort of thing. I'm sure it will become a cult classic for the ages.

Edit: Somehow, I forgot to mention the stuff about an eccentric mad scientist (played by Wallace "inconceivable!" Shawn, who gets a horrifying make-out scene with Bai Ling) who develops a tide-based source of alternative energy and presents a commercial to the politicians that involves a couple of SUVs fucking. I can't believe I skipped that.