Static ★★

"We don't allow this punk shit in our house."

Firstly let me apologize in advance to our dear friend RivoliPalace, a perennial member of Santa's "Nice List" whose only Christmas wish was for a couple of lousy Static reviews: Dear Rivoli, I'm afraid your parcels were not only delayed in the mail but were also significantly damaged while shipping. So please bear in mind that my feelings regarding the film are not meant in any way as a reflection on you personally. Secondly this review will reveal the plot of the film in question, or what the precious sometimes refer to as "spoilers".

Onetime De Palma assistant Mark Romanek made his feature debut with Static, an Arizona-shot independent film co-written with star Keith Gordon. Gordon plays Ernie Blick, a shiftless daydreamer still overcome with grief two years after his parents' sudden death in a car accident. Ernie's alienation is compounded by the loss of his menial job and his inability to relate to his luckless not-quite-girlfriend at the diner and his paramilitary-obsessed evangelist cousin Frank (Bob Gunton). Add to this mix a brief visit from Ernie's former best friend Julia Percell (Amanda Plummer), stir carefully and watch as she morphs into an unutilized love interest.

In the intervening time since the loss of his parents Ernie has concocted a secret device that he believes to be of staggering metaphysical import (essentially a direct line to paradise), and oh my does he like to talk about it. After cryptically boasting about the invention for literally half the run time, Ernie invites everyone over for the great unveiling—and of course it doesn't work. Ernie takes his associates' bewilderment as so much gaslighting and impulsively boards a charter bus full of sweet old ladies after arming himself, deciding that what he really needs is some attention. To this end he hijacks the bus in his smarmily soft-spoken manner, complacently heedless to the risk he incurs for himself and others. A predictable tragedy ensues wherein the bus and its unfortunate riders are liquidated by an antsy cop. What I failed to predict was that the film's coda would honor the loss of Ernie to the total exclusion of the other victims. Sorry ladies.

If it isn't clear by now, I had an exceedingly hard time relating to Ernie even though I suppose I'm the target demo for this film. That is to say, my father died a year and a half ago, and I very much wish he hadn't. Furthermore I wish I had been closer with him when I had the opportunity. While I'm at it, I wish loss wasn't an inevitable byproduct of life. I wish all kinds of things in fact, and yet the world goes on all around me (as though I'm not the most important part of it or something). If Romanek's film is meant to display the perils of solipsism, then job well done. But if he and Gordon intended to fashion a sympathetic portrait of grief, I can't get with it. Even before Ernie's relentless self-obsession turned deadly, it was killing my soul. I did like Frank, though; he was pretty cool.

Given the thoroughgoing negativity of my response to Static, I'd like to note that Romanek nonetheless holds a place in my heart for directing some iconic music videos. These include but are not limited to Fiona Apple's "Criminal", Nine Inch Nails' "Closer" (an MTV staple if there ever was one), Jay-Z's "99 Problems" and Johnny Cash's "Hurt". Of less distinguished quality but more personal value to me are two videos Romanek shot for the Queen of Pop (that's Madonna—in case there are any heretics among my dear readers), "Bedtime Story" and "Rain".

Some stray notes:

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