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Not a Comedy, but a Quality Film
on March 9, 2015
In light of Robin Williams's tragic suicide, this film becomes even more poignant. I confess that I watched this recently only out of nostalgia for Williams, and his passing has allowed me to appreciate the nuance of his performances even more than when he was alive. It's ironic that I would have that kind of reaction to a film that satirizes the celebrity worship of suicide victims, but I think it's necessary to separate the reality of Williams's life from the satirical aspirations of this film.
This is one of those scripts that seems like it wants to come to life as an unwatchable, dark, independent comedy that the critics rave about. That's not what happened though. There's actually a lot of heart in this film, and I think it came from Williams. Also, it's interesting to note that Bobcat Goldthwait is the director. He's that quirky comedian from films like "One Crazy Summer," and I think his touch as not a career director helped this film enormously. Sometimes directors get in the way of the material and steal the spotlight, Goldthwait removes himself from the picture, and this is an admirable effort to have in the portfolio.
I was also impressed with the performance and portrayal of Kyle by Daryl Sabara (you might remember him as Juni from Spy Kids). In this film he plays Williams's unredeemable son, who accidentally kills himself while performing autoerotic asphyxiation. That might sound sad, but the kid is unbearable, and it's perhaps only after you watch the film that you realize how well written and acted the character of Kyle is. It would have been very difficult to create a believable reprehensible character that nevertheless is capable of retaining the focus of his father's love. They nailed it here, and the end result is heartbreaking and tragic...probably because you see so many kids who walk all over their parents just as Kyle walks all over Williams. A character conceived and portrayed like this is rare in modern film, and I think at least part of that is due to Goldthwait's position as an outsider.
Another interesting character is the on again, off again girlfriend played by Alexie Gilmore. At first you think she's just a mousy school teacher excited by a bit of attention, but you soon realize she's manipulative, shallow and evil (all with a squirrel like smile). This is another character that is a very good representation of people you find, unfortunately, in real life. It's surprising to have two such accurate portrayals of common people you encounter every day, who have, to my memory at least, never been major players in major film releases before.
Take note that this isn't exactly a comedy. I don't think "hilarious" belongs on the cover. But this film is thought provoking, well-acted, well-written, and it doesn't contain any major flaws. This is an interesting project for Williams to have picked. I'm glad he did.