Written by: Ashley Cardiff, Special to CC2K
CC2K's Ashley Cardiff decided to check out director Richard Kelly's sophomore effort through NetFlix's video-on-demand service. This is her story.
Last night I had the misfortune of watching Southland Tales, an astonishing, spectacular 2 1/2 hour FAIL from the director of Donnie Darko, Richard “Keg Stand” Kelly. I brought it on myself; having discovered Southland Tales spreading its seed all over my instant queue. Although Netflix’s recommendation algorithm is not so incompetent to suggest I might like the film, it is regrettably not sophisticated enough to detect my monumental pettiness. By noticing Southland Tales in the bottom corner of an otherwise inoffensive “new to instant” line-up, my deep, abiding schadenfreude kicked in and I thought that I was going to spend the next few hours of my life relishing in Kelly’s failure.
Unfortunately, I was pwnd. I did not beat Southland Tales, Southland Tales beat me. By extension, Richard “Bong Water” Kelly beat me. Like, unbelievably. Rather than kicking back with my eBay-purchased Pepsi Clear, a bucket of duck fat and two straws, and having a hearty laugh at the array of B-listers gamely tackling the screen, then sobbing myself to sleep, I was made to feel a level of discomfort I had not encountered since watching Gigli some years ago. Rather, this was worse. And let’s face it, shockingly awful as Southland Tales is, it contains no scene of a “fixed” former lesbian played by Jennifer Lopez, reclining on a bed and spreading her legs, presenting to wannabe mafioso Ben Affleck and then, in a moment of cinema that carried twinkling across the firmament and hovered there as if before a star’s explosion: J. Lo announces seductively, “It’s turkey time. Gobble, gobble.” Again: this is worse than that.
The main problem with Southland Tales isn’t the acting, although the acting tries really, really hard to be the problem. Richard “Hemp Necklace” Kelly, I think, set about to make a futuristic satire, with elements of black comedy. You know, play both sides against each other, send-up the hypocrisy of war and politics and the nature of celebrity blah blah it’s really an homage to Warhol blah blah 42oz. to Freedom is definitely their best album blah blah, and Kelly could totally illustrate how the GOP’s a bunch of fascists and the Dems a bunch of pinko baby-eaters. See? If he doesn’t pick a side, that makes it layered. All’s fair in stupid town, right?
Wrong. Apparently, Richard “Wanna watch this DVD of Dane Cook do stand-up?” Kelly forgot to tell his cast that he was making this clever, mordant little satire, because it would appear that everyone else in the film believes they are making a screwball comedy. Granted, if I was in a movie and looked around and saw not just 1) Cherie Oteri, and not just 2) Stifler from American Pie, but oh my fucking god he’s still alive 3) Jon Lovitz, I would be convinced that I should act slapstick-y.
This is all well and good, except nobody told Justin Timberlake. JT is in this movie, and sporting the worst facial hair seen to man since his ‘N Sync days. No one told JT he was making this screwball/political satire, because JT takes this film very seriously. This wouldn’t be such a problem if he faded on and off the screen incoherently like the rest of the cast, no, but JT narrates the fucking thing. And he does so with such leaden graveness—like when he reads from Revelation 6:8 (I swear to god)—that the disparity between the voiceover, the goofy comedic acting, and the distractingly hamfisted directing becomes physically uncomfortable.
I would write a full review, but I only made it an hour into Southland Tales. I quit right about the time the Rock was convinced he was a fictional character from the prophetic film he was trying to produce with the help of a pornstar played by Buffy who was semi-wittingly helping a group of radical Marxists who planned on exploiting her connections to the Rock because even though the Rock has amnesia he’s still married to Mandy Moore, who is politically important because she’s the daughter of a George W. Bush impersonator (don’t worry, it’s super subtle), and the Marxists think that if they can get the Rock to “ride along” with a police officer played by Stifler, or rather Stifler’s identical twin—the real Stifler is tied to a chair in the radical Marxists’ warehouse—the Rock will accidentally film the fake-double-murder of Amy Poehler and Avon Barksdale… unfortunately for the Marxists, everything goes awry when Jon Lovitz shows up and actually kills Amy Poehler and Avon Barksdale. And because Stifler is actually Stifler’s twin and not a real cop, he runs away. And Bai Ling is in this also.
I want to just mention again this was an hour into the movie.
Basically, I wussed out before I had the chance to watch the Rock say “I'm a pimp, and pimps don't kill themselves.” But the story has a happy ending: Richard “Why read books when you can just buy them and put them places and chicks will still totally bone you?” Kelly has several new projects in the pipeline. Several.