Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Southland Tales: A Four-Sentence Movie Review

Director Richard Kelly holds a special place in my film-loving heart for bringing Donnie Darko to the world, but that movie was six years ago, so it's been a long wait to see if he could follow up on the promise of his first effort. Southland Tales shows that Kelly might still be one of the most creatively ambitious filmmakers working a film set today, and the cast he assembled for this project indicates that plenty of other people believe in his talent, but since seeing this movie back in late November, I haven't been able to explain to anyone just what the hell this thing is about.

I'm a fan of The Rock, which was almost enough for me to go see this (no, I haven't seen The Game Plan, and probably never will unless I'm somehow trapped in front of a television with a small child), and it's fun to see him play a different role than the unstoppable machines he normally portrays that can kick ass with a wink and a smile, but ultimately he's a hub for a bicycle wheel with many, many surreal spokes that could really use a decent tire to make it ride more smoothly (and sensibly).

It seems like Kelly tried to compose a commentary on our country's war-mongering ways, its fascination with celebrity (especially the titillating kind), and the need for our politicians to control us through constantly peddling fear, but then the story stops for scenes like Justin Timberlake lip-syncing The Killers' "All These Things That I Have Done" (which is just as weird as it sounds, but it might be the best part of the movie, and can be seen here), and you wonder if he was also trying to say other things that were also shoehorned into what ultimately becomes a congealed, over-stuffed (especially with former Saturday Night Live cast members), yet admirably grandiose mess.