Sunday, August 15, 2010

Scott Pilgrim VS. The World

( A Quick Note: I apologize for the lack luster posting schedule. A busier then usual personal life, a punishing work schedule, and an internet connection that has decided its only going to work when it damn well feels like it and even then not very well (thanks NETGEAR) have all conspired to keep me from getting anything up. Still all but the Connection are now under control, so the normal pace should now resume.)

Scott Pilgrim might not be a perfect film, or a perfect adaptation. What it is, is a perfect version of itself.

Whatever Pilgrim loses in the way of emotional depth or narrative ambition in the transition from thousands of pages and panels to two hours or so of celluloid, it more then makes up for with its sheer exuberance. It’s a film that hits the ground running, from the second its energetic to the point of avant garde credits explode on screen, it has the wonderful air of a film that can simply not contain itself.

But its one thing for a film to be satisfied with itself, and another to get the audience to be satisfied with it as well. And Scott Pilgrim is one of those wonderful exceptions that has the power to bring the audience along with it. The audience I saw it with erupted into spontaneous applause at no less then three parts in the film. And this wasn’t a midnight show of rapt fanboys either, but a 2/3rds full early evening show.

Because whatever else Scott Pilgrim is; generous, warm, witty, stylistically audacious, its most importantly FUN. In a summer that has been all but devoid of that precious commodity. Even the Summer’s one other unqualified success, Inception stands lower then Pilgrim in this regard. Not that Inception wasn’t an enormously entertaining film, but both the critical squabbles and the thud of Christopher Nolan’s dick hitting the table distracted from it. In other words, Inception was even at its popcorniest a very weighty film, while Scott Pilgrim remains, almost defiantly based on the tremendous amount of work evident in its making, a lark. But a lark that embraces all the freedom and fleetness that that designation allows.

Wright’s eye for casting is impeccable. I had serious doubts about Cera, but by dropping the prickly intelligence that always seems key to his persona, he taps into a wholly unexpected daffiness that makes the role work. Christopher Evan’s and Brandon Routh both turn in performances that I wouldn’t hesitate to call comedic genius. Routh in particular is revelatory (but not that revelatory, he proved in Zack And Miri he has some serious comic chops) and his wildly inappropriately non chalant “Its not a big deal” got the single biggest laugh in the film for me (Wright also gives Routh an action his character didn’t have in the book and boy does it pay off. Minor Spoilers, when you see a guy Brandon Routh’s size with biceps like Canned Hams hit a five foot tall 90 pound Asian girl as hard as he can, you wince no matter how cartoony it is). Mary Elizabeth Winstead makes an effective and affecting Object of desire, even if she doesn’t have the depth of her paper counterpart. Jason Schwartzman on the other hand makes his character ten times what he was on the page. As for Allison Pill I suppose all I can say is its going to be very hard not to stalk her (Note to various Law Enforcement agencies and Ms. Pill’s lawyers, joking). If there’s any justice in the world Ellen Wong should be getting the exact same kind of buzz Carey Mulligan got off of An Education, thanks to her role (If the film has a flaw its that Wright and Wong invest so much in Knives that we end up rooting for her over Ramona) And we haven’t even gotten to Anna Kendrick and Kieran Culkin yet.

But it’s still Edgar Wright upon whom this all rests. He’s aided here by Bill Pope’s quietly mind blowing work. And a soundtrack that swings from Earthy Proto Punk (Provided by Beck and Broken Social Scene) and Techno Decadence (Courtesy of Metric) and stopping everywhere in between from Bollywood to Frank Black. Believe what you’ve heard, this movie is a fucking musical.

But despite the invaluable aid by Cast, crew and music, its all Wright. I don’t know if it was when an army of demon fire throwing hipster chicks materialized out of thin air, or if it was one of the characters punched a hole in the moon, but there came a point where all I could do was lean back and marvel “Fuck he’s really going for it.” Wright swings for the fences. Wright is one of the few directors working in what is legitimately his own space. Even if you don’t like what he does, I don’t see how you could not concede that he does it very well. Personally, he creates films I want to curl up in. Moments like Simon Pegg’s first run through Stanford, set to “Village Green Preservation Society” or his and Edgar Wright’s post break up break down in Shaun Of The Dead, hell even Vulva’s art show in Spaced, aren’t just favorite scenes from films, but cinematic headspace that I can go when I feel wounded.

Despite the ravenous zombies, NWA’s, and Nega Verisons, Wright’s cinematic universe remains an appealingly friendly one. And despite the lackluster designation that may entail it is never a dull one.

So yes, perhaps this review has been little but raving superlatives, But damn it, if no film can move a film writer to blathering superlatives, he is in serious trouble. The movie Is Scott Pilgrim. He’s 22. His Rating is awesome. But you already knew that.

(Fun Fact: This Post took an hour and a half to get up. This is after it had been sitting on my computer for two days. So if you hear the sound of someone on the west coast screaming before they punch a hole in the internet, that's me. Seriously Netgear. Fuck you. Fuck you so hard.)


Darren said...

Yep, I feel ya. I'm working up the wazoo, so my posting schedule has effectively been halved. I am so looking forward to September when this is over.

The Mad Hatter said...

Totally agree - this flick was so much fun that i am stumped as to why so few people went to see it last weekend. Perhaps people didn't really understand the premise.

I'm still left with a bad Cera taste in my mouth, but Wright's direction more than makes up for it.

Great post!

Anonymous said...

Wrong Culkin brother. It was Kieran who was Wallace.

The Film Connoisseur said...

Cant wait to check it out! Everyone is raving about this one, weird thing is, everyone is raving about The Expendables as well! Arrgggh, and now Machete is coming out next week! Damn, thats a lot of good movies to watch!

Bryce Wilson said...

@ Darren: Yeah, mostly its this Internet thing, but I think (Knock on wood) the worst is over.

@ TMH: Glad you agree man, and thanks for the kind words.

I'm hoping that word of mouth saves this one. It deserves it. I know I definitely plan on dragging people back to it.

@ Anon: So it is. Thanks for the catch!

@ Franco: I know man, still as bad as this summer's been too many good movies is the least of my complaints. Still talk about your back loads.

Simon said...

I really was rooting for Knives. She was adorable.

Marcus said...

I wish they had included the Honest Eds scene and I thought it was weird how they handled the twins, but other than that, really fun movie

Bryce Wilson said...

@ Simon: Completely agree. She projected more vulnerability per square inch then I thought possible.

@ Marcus: I would have loved Honest Ed's as well, as its the closest I believe I'd ever come to Evil Dead 4, and yes the twins did seem a big abrupt.

Still both where structural problems, and I thought Wright ultimately handled both admirably.