Southland Tales

Southland Tales ★★★★★

My sister lives 2,367 miles away (3,809 kilometers for those of you not on evil Imperial units), so I don’t get to see her very often, but she visited me and the rest of the family this summer for about a month, and one of the things we did together with that precious little time was watch Southland Tales. To my great pleasure (and at least a little surprise), she loved it, she vibed with it, which is not always an easy thing to do when the performances are so purposefully stilted, so intentionally alienating (Lord forgive us that we go so far as to call them Brechtian), but what I discovered this time through the film — my first time with an audience — is that the comedy plays better with a crowd.

Maybe it’s just that this was my third time watching it now and I knew what was coming, and maybe it’s just that I was in particularly high spirits having my sister around and sharing a movie I love with her, but I laughed harder at (with) the film this time than I have before. There’s something strange about it, you know? Everyone in it is just an absolute doofus, tripping over themselves, making fools of themselves, and I think there’s something meaningful there, some critique of America (the essay is coming soon I promise I’m sorry it’s taken me so long it was just difficult to get everything I wanted to say out on digital paper), but there’s also something human there. We’re all doofuses; we’re all fools. 

Such an alienating critique of my own national identity shouldn’t be so easy to love, right? Like, there’s another version of this movie that feels emotionally hollow or overwhelmingly hateful, all anger with no heart, and maybe I’m missing the point or reading against the text, but I love these losers, I love Boxer and his self-serious explanation of his movie, I love Krysta and her vapid galaxy-brain pop-culture talk show, I love Dion and Dream and their dedication to their staged performances, I love Zora and Bing and their dorky off-road rollerblades, I love Roland/Ronald and their ingenuous trepidation, I even love Senator Frost and the way he stares open-mouthed as the truth unfolds before him. 

I see something of myself in all these idiots; like me, they’re all just struggling to get by in this crazy stupid world, and as much as I have a lot (too much) to say about the movie’s politics, I think that’s the real reason I responded to it so immediately, so viscerally. Southland Tales may hate America, but it loves people.

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