Southland Tales ★★★

The three star isn't a fair rating so much as an attempt to reconcile the 1 star and 4/4 and a half star rating that different parts of my brain want to give this movie. It's basically the Casino Royale (1967) or Skidoo of our time. It's so, so flawed on every level. It's uneven in every sense - the plot strands aren't balanced or integrated in any way, there's no tone or atmosphere consistent throughout and the characters feel like they're interacting between different movies - consider how different the performances are between the Rock and Sean William Scott - the former is having fun, almost lampooning his image in a sort of meta "lol it's me, The Rock, in an art film, how ridiculous!" way, whereas Scott plays his so straight (who buys into the material a little to seriously, as if THIS was his attempt at earning credibility as a dramatic actor) - the final scene is so jarring as it cuts between the two. And yet, I can't quite dismiss it.

The film has this glossy look, which like every other element sort of relishes in its own artifice. It's so rough-shot throughout that it almost owns how inconsistent it is, mixing genres and elaborate and unsubtle film references throughout. It works on a meta-level, deliberately subverting all the roles its many, many famous faces are attributed with, and it's very much a film of it's exact moment - 2006/2007 - both in its vague satire - like the Paris Hilton-esque brand whoring of of Krysta Now and politics of the George Bush era, and in its pop-culture; a time when young people still knew who Sarah Michelle Gellar and Sean William Scott were. It's a movie that is a joy, but you kind of hope is as tongue-in-cheek as it first seems. It's quotations of Eliot and Frost, without this sort of deliberate irony, would be the epitome of pretension.

I don't know. I didn't understand the plot. Its politics and satire is so hazy and unspecified its hard to take away the intended meaning of the film. Yet it's a film of unbridled ambition, thematically interested in no less than celebrity, class warfare, terrorism, the film and entertainment business itself, the apocalypse and quantum physics - it doesn't nail any of these concepts, and more often than not it fails horribly. It's objectively horrible, and yet its not. But it demands to be seen - either as an example of true inspiration, innovation and creative explosion at the expense of traditional film parameters, or as a warning as to why you should never hand a young director $17 million dollars and creative carte blanche for a second movie. Either way, I think it's a lot more essential to anyone interested in cinema than Donnie Darko.