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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

"Enemy" and "Filth"

Saw the worst movie ever this past weekend, no exaggeration: Enemy. It's about a college professor who sees his doppelganger in a movie, then looks him up. Jake Gyllenhaal played both roles.

None of the characters are believable, there's nobody to empathize with, the pace is glacial, you keep waiting for something to happen, then the next thing you know the credits (blames?) are rolling. Watching that list of names scroll down the screen was probably more exciting than anything that happened during the movie.

I paid my son thirty dollars to watch the film in its entirety, without his iPhone or computer. He agreed it was the worst film ever.

The next day, to wash the taste of Enemy out of my mouth, I rented Filth, which was almost as good as Enemy was bad.

It's about a detective sergeant who wants to be promoted to detective inspector and the sly games he plays in order to advance. He is dishonest, disloyal, corrupt, promiscuous, and has a bad drug habit. But the first forty minutes of the movie is a perversely fun romp through the life of a gleefully uninhibited sociopath reminiscent of the first half of Clockwork Orange. James McAvoy does a remarkable job in the lead role.

Part of the humor of the film lies in showing how a holier-than-thou backstabber turns political correctness to his advantage.

The problem with the movie is that the protagonist seems to develop a conscience in the second half, and agonizes over things a sociopath wouldn't be fazed by in the least. We're left wondering what happened to the fun guy we first met.

Watching a clever sociopathic character from a distance -- i.e., on the screen -- can be fun, as it was in Catch Me if You Can. We can even begin to identify with him.

The problem with Hollywood is that they can't leave well enough alone. It's not enough for their main characters to display all the traits of an unmistakeable sociopath, as McAvoy does so eloquently in the first half of Filth. They must also become noble, or guilt-wracked, a psychological impossibility.

As a connoisseur of sociopaths, I find that sort of unrealistic character development annoying. Still, the first half of Filth is as enjoyable as anything I've seen in a long time.


Steven said...

haha paid your son $30 to watch it. That's comedy right there. I'll watch it for 20 :-P

Filth sounds interesting. A movie like that would be more compelling if he never develops a conscience and you see how wretched he is. He should come out smelling of roses too. A little reminded there are people in authority just like that.

John Craig said...

Steven --
I definitely recommend Filth, even if it doesn't ring true psychologically. (At least with Clockwork Orange Alex stayed in character the entire movie.) Filth is definitely worth watching just because of the euphoria of the first half. 9Never hurts to get high, even if the high is a little illicit.)

And yes, there are definitely a lot of people in authority like that.

Steven said...

I thought the wolf of wall street (almost?) did a good job of making him completely wrecthed. There was a moment there when he was about to shop his friends that I thought 'wow, this guy has no redeeming virtues at all. He's just a total selfish scumbag.' And actually I didn't want him to be. I wanted the film to give me something because I wanted to like him, I wanted to think there was something good about him, that he was at least loyal to his friends. He tried to warn his main sidekick, which was at least something.

John Craig said...

Steven --
You're exactly right. We WANT to identify with the protagonist, and see him redeem himself, and Hollywood usually gives us what we want, which is why all their character portrayals ring false. They have what is known as the "character arc," in which the protagonist learns and grows over the course of the movie; but as those of us who understand sociopathy realize, sociopaths never change. So, yes, Wolf was a better movie that way than Filth was. And Wolf had that first half hour of euphoria as well, where we see how cool his life was before it unraveled, and we get to enjoy his riches and all they bought from a distance, with an upbeat soundtrack in the background to emphasize the point. But in Filth the protagonist seemed to grow a conscience, which is about as likely as you or me growing a third arm.