Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

After trying to enjoy it for years, I've come to the opinion that modern American lit can sit and spin. Except David Foster Wallace, the one poor bastard who tried to say something real in the hyper-self-conscious language of the seminar creeps and wound up hanging himself. He's a good read, which is why I initially avoided the film adaptation of Brief Interviews with Hideous Men.

It's a shame this film didn't suck because then I could title the review "A Hideous Film" or something equally punny. Is not great - for the most part - but it's pretty alright, especially for a first time director. Jon Krasinski, the smirking everyman of The Office, put this together and it's obvious he's both a Wallace fan and deeply entwined with the mingy world Wallace struggled with, making for a film that's much too comfortable with it's own targets.

For those of you who never read it, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men is actually a short story collection and gets the title from a number of interviews - or really monologues - from very ugly and very familiar men, mostly about women. This film does the ugly well, but only up to a point.

One particular interview is with a guy who has a hilariously complicated and neurotic sexual fantasy - always in a gym and always with stopping all time around him while he plows the chick of the moment. Originally, this fantasy goes out of control as he freaks out over all the madness he would cause by freezing people worldwide, just to get his rocks off. Think Alex Portnoy to the tenth power of cocaine.

In the film, it cuts off before it can get that weird and we're left with just the dolt smiling over the awesome powers he cribbed from Bewitched.

I couldn't find him so here's the guy who ejaculates democracy.

And Krasinski is a very middling actor. He has the good grace not to make himself the star of the show, instead focusing on some sallow hipster knock-off of Felicia Day as she goes about conducting the titular interviews. These are taken verbatim from Wallace, illustrated through the magic of film, and are for the most part well acted. The only one that falls flat is the penultimate scene with Krasinski himself, which stays faithful to Wallace's overwrought delivery but can't muster any of the humor or humanity.

But before that, we get to see Krasinski as a phenomenal director. Seriously, just watch this:

...I'll be honest, I didn't expect much from this movie. I just threw it on so my wife and I had some noise during dinner. I certainly wasn't expecting anything this good! Hell, the rest of the film feels stodgy and try-hardy in comparison.

Everything here - the delivery, the set, the subtleties - is perfect. This is what film can do that books can't! This one scene takes Wallace's prose and gets to the core of desperation while still reciting things verbatim. It's better than I ever would have expected from a dead writer cash-in flick and better than anything I've seen since A Serious Man.

One scene may not make a movie but this comes pretty damn close. It's enough reason to check out the rest if you have the time before Europa Report comes out.

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