Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
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Watch as I, a Donnie Darko fan, become completely disillusioned with Richard Kelley, writer/director of this years absolute worst movie Southland Tales. This "pop" "extravaganza" began in some graphic novel that tells the first 3 chapters of the story; this movie only shows the last 3 chapters, and if that sounds like it'll be short - it's 2 hours and 20 minutes long.
"This is how the world ends" the previews proclaim (as do 15 characters throughout the movie - "not with a whimper, but with a bang." Southland Tales is a scattered, incoherent romp, that attempts to tie the end of the world in to the discovery of a missing action star in a dessert, his new porn star girlfriend, and a man posing as a racist cop. Among other things we learn about the degradation of American society - that the government has created an agency entitled USIdent to keep track of everything - a way to win the fight on terror. Somewhere along the lines a Neo-Marxist group is shown, USIdeath, and they attempt to, well, do something.
This is the best I can do for plot - it's just a mess of plot lines and ideas that never become anything more than the scatter-shot mess it sounds. It's not even necessarily confusing, it's just frustratingly bizarre merely for the sake of being bizarre.
The movie is simply exhausting, and Kelley's biggest misstep is expecting viewers to care about his tremendously unfeeling, completely bizarre and schizophrenic story that really means nothing. The fact that the first half of the story is in a comic book just psises me off - don't make me pay for a 3 hour flick an then tell me, "oh you hated it? Well you missed the beginning, now go buy the comic!" Hell no! Man this guy is self-indulgent. I loved Donnie Darko but this is that without any of the emotion, without any of the purpose, without any of the intrigue. It's that striped of all the qualities that bring a person into a movie, that make people interested even if confused - it's just scene after scene, funny bit after unfunny bit all tied together by NOTHING, and then suddenly in the last minutes it's tied together by SOMETHING but its something you'd rather just have stayed nothing since it's freaking ridiculous and just STUPID. I feel like I haven't hated something for being STUPID since I was just a boy, but damn, Southland Tales is STUPID!
Stupider than pop stars and wrestlers and models who pretend to be actors.
The cast is talented enough (The Rock is a good wrestler, Justin Timberlake makes good pop music, and Bai Ling always manages to keep her breasts from exposing themselves when it seems they're about to be unleashed), and if on paper it sounds like a collection of the most bizarrely mainstream, pop actors around, on screen in comes across as, well, just that. Justin Tmberlake, The Rock... er Dwayne Johnson, Sean William Scott, Sarah Michelle Gellar, every SNL alum ever (except the legendary ones), Bai Ling (really?), Jon Lovitz (really?), and the list goes on. Theres a certain point in the movie, I think around the time Lovitz shows up that the movie becomes its most entertaining - and only because it's a riot to try to figure out who's going to show up next (although by the time Kevin Smith shows up, it's hard to even give a crap anymore).
Which makes the fact that the cast is the only saving grace of this film funny - it's just like a tremendously confused group of little kids following their pedophile teacher obdiently or something (terrible metaphor, but I hate this movie); Sarah Michelle Gellar is almost fantastic as porn star Krysta Now, she looks fantastic, and she's funny; Cheri Oteri is my personal stand-out as the leader of some Neo-Marxist, ah who cares, she's just funny. And looks cool. Dwanye Johnson is I guess the lead, and he's, well his teeth are just so white, and his nervous ticks seem so forced which I guess means his performance is bad. But these characters are all in the very least funny; it's like the most pretentious episode of some Alien sketch comedy show; and the over-reaching arc just ruins everything - every funny scene once in context of the story becomes just annoying, every character who is killed or used as some plot device is just unnatural, confusing and bizarre, like Kelley is just reaching into his big bag of people and saying OH SHE'LL DO!.
Oh and Mandy Moore is in this too.
And politics, I mean it's important to note this is a political movie - it's trying to be relevant, dealing with terrorism, end of the world, pop culture, um, Iraq, the draft, erm, voting, elections - basically everything that has ever happened. It's such a mess of themes and ideas that nothing comes across as more than just "well yeah," instead of any shocking statement on something.
David Lynch, people have compared this to David Lynch. It's themes seem to be something about Hollywood culture; pop identity, all that Mulholland Drive stuff, and hey there's some bizarre music scenes, like Justin Timberlake lip-syncing to The Killers while pouring beer over himself (probably my favorite scene). Just like Lynch's use of Locomotion in Inland Empire. Um, besides the fact that Lynch's musical choices are simply more interesting and clever, they serve far more purpose, and when Kelley decides to throw one in, it seems like he's just using Lynch's Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire as a "EXPERIMENTAL MOVIES FOR DUMMIES" guide, and just following the template.
Southland Tales is probably one of the most misguided movies I have ever seen. One of the most self-indulgent pieces of pseudo-intellectual sci-fi crap ever released; it's frustrating that Richard Kelley can't just let his movie unfold, that he has to basically stand in the middle of every scene and scream "AREN'T I SO CLEVER!"
No Richard, you're not.
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