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Southland Tales (2006)

March 31, 2008

I’ve waited years for Richard Kelly to make another movie.  Donnie Darko is one of my favorites, so I assumed, like most people, that his next movie would be even better.  Unfortunately I can’t say I liked it as much as I liked Donnie Darko, however it does have it’s merits.

At first the plot seems simple.   In a world of war and dwindling resources, everyone is on edge, there is a new revolutionary movement in the US and they hatch a plan to mess with the election in California.  When Boxer Santaros  reads off his script it sounds so dumb, so illogical, you just think it’s a metaphor for all the other crap films coming out of Hollywood.  The movie gets progressively weirder from their, trying to turn a B-movie plot idea into “real life”.

For me, the movie peaked too early.  This was it’s major disappointment for me, that the ending didn’t thrill me or bring me to tears the way Donnie Darko did.  The peak was when Boxer was leaving the mansion, with Krysta leaving before him, the weird little lady from Poltergeist behind him, and Muse’s “Blackout” cuing up.  That was a good moment, and unfortunately the ending did not come close to matching that.

One of the film’s major downsides was it’s casting.  It was like someone took the cast of Donnie Darko, mashed it up with Saturday Night Live and Mad TV, then crapped out the Rock.  He just couldn’t lead the film at all, and his lack of skill nearly made me beat my TV.  Sarah Michelle Gellar was great as the “now” porn star, and Justin Timberlake actually surprised me with his abilities to not piss me off and remind me of a teen idol.  Seann William Scott also managed to stay serious in a role that he probably didn’t even understand, but still make it seem like he did.  The rest of the cast just couldn’t get their act together and play people other than themselves.

Some things in this film did not need to be there, and I felt were just added for the “weird” effect.  Midgets don’t have to be in a movie to make it “weird”.  Respect the midget, let them be humans and not props.  Pimps don’t commit suicide, ok… but what does that have to do with the plot or the film?  Why would the Wife and the Girlfriend comment about him having to die, when they die too?  It’s not like he sacrificed himself to save others, which would have made more sense given the build-up for it.   The Christianity bit didn’t really make sense to me either.  Calling the ice cream truck a “pale horse” was a stretch, and the rest didn’t really fit with what happened on the screen.   And in the end, it’s not clear whether all of human life ended because of the rift, or just Los Angeles, or just the people blown up in the Zepplin.  And lastly, Kevin Smith as a white-bearded guru that apparently has no place in the world besides to try and explain to the Rock how fucked up the plot really is… sigh, I give up.

Despite these criticisms, I still did like the film.  My husband said, while watching it, that if I had succeeded in ever making a film, this would have been it.  I took it as a compliment.  I take the flaws for what they were, and I can still enjoy a film that doesn’t make sense.

One of my biggest regrets from my very short-lived film career is that I never got to work with Richard Kelly.  I hope his next film gives him more success.

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