I'm going to join yun-fat on the Death To Smoochy
bandwagon. This was one of the most pleasant surprises of the year, especially since the film was generally savaged by critics, and it looked really terrible. I only rented it out of curiosity, but it turns out that it's quite good. The script is loaded with hilarious dialogue, Keener and Williams give really strong performances (with notable help from Norton, DeVito, and a host of character actors), and the set design is pretty eye-popping. But what really stands out with this updating of Elia Kazan's timeless masterpiece A Face In the Crowd
is its sheer audacity -- the movie is a rude, ugly, bombastic, mean-spirited, nasty, vicious, bitter, almost nihilistic dark comedy that indicts nearly everyone with the guilt for turning today's children into sugared-up, materialistic, obnoxious brats.
The inside story in Hollywood is that the children of Danny DeVito and Rhea Pearlman are atrocious devils, merciless scamps that have no manners whatsoever when they're out in public. Now it makes sense DeVito would direct a film like this; an answer to the question of why children today have the minds that they do. Look at Barney. A poison-pen letter to television with the ambition of Kazan's film or Lee's recent Bamboozled, Smoochy
does sag and flounder a bit in its middle act, when it centers too heavily on a rather dull, limited character of a retarded boxer, but it makes up for it in very engrossing early and late sections. I laughed out loud as much as I have in almost any movie this year, and even though it could have used some smoothing out here and there, it was worth it to see Williams bellow out one profanity after another (his turns in Insomnia
and One Hour Photo
have nothing on the crudeness of his Rainbow Randolph) and to see a movie create a world so morally bankrupt that when a crowd gathered around a television at a bar are seeing a report of children's show star arrested by the FBI, they cheer and clink glasses at the TV's mention of the very bar they're sitting in. Note: pay attention to the Times Square text drifting by in the background. If you focus too much on the foreground, you'll miss little jokes like "Rainbow Randolph: Paranoid Lunatic With Heart Of Gold."
For defense from an actual film critic, read J. Hoberman's review in the Village Voice.