Monday, 30 August 2010

REVIEW: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

So who the fuck says I never do anything different?

First impressions are a fickle and confusing thing. Going into this review, my synopsis was basically a film I disliked a great deal, that might be one of the best of the year. Or with a further couple of hours of matured thought, one of the most unique, visually engaging films I'd ever seen that's also a pretentious, steaming pile of self-satisfied hipster bullshit. I don't want to use the word contradictory, but its, you know, its quality is at odds with itself. In the end I think you can't whitewash the flaws nor ignore the strengths. It's a chaotic, clusterfuck of a film that throws an endless amount of creation at a target and sees what sticks. Funneled through the viewpoint of an Arcade Firey, Diablo Codyish, read alternative literaturite hipster. And whether that sounds intolerable to you or not probably tells you whether you'll like this movie. Think Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist was the best romantic comedy in years? Well you've just found the ultimate comic-book movie.

Going into the film, I thought its central concept, defeating seven evil ex-boyfriends in order to win the girl, was ridiculous and to be honest I didn't really come out otherwise convinced. Its not a suspension of disbelief thing, something I enjoy doing and to be honest if I didn't this movie would be unwatchable, breaking one logical rule after the other without much explanation, an aspect of it I liked a lot actually. But more because the concept is such a blatant cover for feelings of inadequacy and jealousy, and approached the wrong way it can be just a ' you can't better then me in bed if your DEAD' revenge fantasy, of which the angst isn't taken away just because they explode into coins instead of blood and gore. I didn't think movie addressed this dark subtext anywhere nearly enough, more concerned with being a ride, and added onto to the fact that Scott Pilgrim is kind of a dick, and played by Michael Cera, it made him a hard guy to root for.

Similarly, the minute I saw Mary Elizabeth Winstead in her pink wig in the trailers I knew trouble was ahead. And faster then you can say manic pixie dream girl, you've got a romance that is a narrative tentpole, and a female lead that isn't allowed to be a character, rather an indie girl fuck fantasy for guys who listen to Interpol instead of Nickelback. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World pitches itself as a romance, its narrative structure depends on it, so this matters more then it usually would. Ramona and Scott share no believable connection, Winstead and Cera share no chemistry in each others presence and there's no investment in the relationship beyond the geek getting to bang the hot girl. I'm not asking for Edward and Bella hysterics but a genuine indication that these two human beings like each other and want to be in each others company for reasons other then narrative expediency might of been nice. I don't even think its the actors fault all the much. Its the hipster DNA, a sub-culture so terrified of the exhibition of emotion that its pushed down with endless layers of irony. And it shows in the story and writing. I've read around the internet that this doesn't matter, its Scott's story, Scott's Journey, but that just means that its yet another film featuring a romance where the girl just doesn't matter. And for a movie as often intelligent and clever as this, its disappointing.

So I don't like the story, I'm not invested in the characters and I just quasi-accused it of being sexist. How am I not hating this movie? Because once you adjust to what is happening, how its happening is so endlessly creative, entertaining, awe-inspiring and original that if you ignore what the movie is trying to say and the story its trying to tell, it just might be the best movie experience you have all year. All the superfluous touches, the incorporation of early video game iconography to the ridiculously over the top fight scenes, to its sense of humor, to the several terrific supporting performances and most impressively Wright's gloriously ADD visual style, which may be owed to the graphic novels I'm not sure, but in the cinematic context just feels so brutally creative, that were many sequences where I just wanted to clap. For moments of pure fun, pure entertainment, Scott Pilgrim just excels, at times beyond even what I thought it would be able to do.

Of the actors, I think Alison Pill was my favorite, as the excruciatingly deadpan drummer of Scott's band whose announcement ' We're sex bo-bomb, and we're here to make money and sell out and stuff' was the funniest thing I recall seeing for a long time. She was terrific. Also Mean Creek's Kieran Culkin as Scott's gay roommate Wallace, gives great acerbic-isms, and even ex-Superman Brandon Routh sells the shit out of his cameo. Cera, an actor who I don't quite hate as much as the rest of the world, I think has some very strong moments in the film, and although he doesn't do anything new perhaps, this combined with Youth In Revolt mean he's an actor I'm at the very least interested in. Winstead, mostly due to the writing, gets to do nothing but act aloof, and I would even say that Ellen Wong as Knives Chau, who mostly is used by the movie as a cheap joke, creates a more relatable character then her.

Wright is primarily interested in the visual creativity the premise provides for, but above all this leaves the movie bobbing in between greatness and the realm of the underwhelming. In the bizarrest comparison I might ever make, I would say it takes the same joy in visual and experimental sense of wonder as Ponyo, only Scott Pilgrim fails when it tries to bare its soul, because it hasn't got one. Sweetness and candy for the dead-eyed generation of irony. But boy does it taste good.

Rating: 7/10


Simon said...

I wouldn't say Ramona was a MPDG, more of a subversion. She wasn't manic, but dry, the entire point was that she did, in fact, have a past and a life before Scott, and she didn't bring adventure so much as disaster. The only MPDG-ish about her was her hair.

Otherwise, nice review.

Louis Baxter said...

I guess, but it felt like the point of her and the disaster she caused all served the purpose of serving Scott's self-esteem and self-respect instead of any kind of relationship between them, and her character to me felt like a plot device. She had a past but it was romanticised, even mythisized and not that of a real person like Scott's.

But hey maybe I misread it, but that's what it felt like to me.