Monday, June 3, 2013

Film Review: Gregory Go Boom (2013)

Gregory Go Boom is a short independent film starring Michael Cera (better known as "Scott Pilgrim") and released as part of YouTube Comedy Week, which is highly inappropriate for such an uncomedic piece of film. I originally came across this film earlier this evening while at my friends' house browsing YouTube. We stumbled upon JASH, and, well, one thing led to another and soon we were embarking on a twenty-minute journey for which we were not prepared. At that time we were simply following the lulz, and the phrase "YouTube Comedy Week" assured us that more were to be had.

Such was not the case.

If you go into this expecting it to be funny, you're going to be disappointed. The picture does start out in a way that could lead into being funny. Y'know, one of those movies that portrays itself as serious and dramatic in an attempt to mock excessively artsy and dramatic and self-indulgent pieces of film? It turns out, however, that this is one of those artsy and dramatic films! It, however, is not self-indulgent.

After watching it earlier and thoroughly scratching my head, I gave it a little bit of thought. It intrigued me in a couple of ways, because while watching it that first time I had to kind of reimagine everything as a Lifetime movie to make sense of what they were trying to do. Or at least, of the genre I felt was more appropriate for the story they were attempting to tell. Watching it that way, although still with that nagging question "Is this supposed to be funny?" clinging to the back of my mind, showed me a film which had potential, but which was suffering from poor situation (at my friends' for the lulz) and poor marketing.

I decided to rewatch at home with a different atmosphere and without the expectation of comedy. Going at it like that reveals a fairly decent tragedy. Though there are still a couple small bits near the beginning which a desire to be funny, and they are worth at least a smile, the overarching tone is still a morose and tragic one. Watched simply as a film, and allowed to develop without the expectations generated by misleading titles and poor launch dates, we are left with a touching, interesting, but still mediocre work of cinema.

The story focuses on Gregory, a handicapped young man who can make no use of his legs. Played by Michael Cera, Gregory is almost exactly the same as every other character played by Michael Cera with the distinct difference that he isn't being played for laughs. This is Cera tilted at a different angle, but still by definition himself. He's still the awkward social outcast, but this time he's not a funny one. Actually, Gregory is a pretty unlikable character. He has some serious anger issues and doesn't really understand the concept of respect. The character treats the others as backdrop to his own precious little life. From his perspective, they exist merely to interact with him, preferably to serve him and he becomes quite disgruntled and outright abusive when they don't.

Despite this, you end up feeling awful for this character. No matter what he says, and no matter what he does, Gregory will pluck your heart strings like Stephen Stills plucks guitars. Cera's performance of this pathetic person will leave you with a tear... in your conscience (but probably your eye).

We follow this character as he attempts to find acceptance in his messed up world, while, like a stubborn child, shunning the only person who ever gave it to him at all. He takes his motorized wheelchair through the impoverished countryside, each of which does its part in telling him that he doesn't belong or that he isn't doing it right. All the while we hear an odd humming theme which sounds very amateurish and kind of pulls you out the flick.

While watching this I couldn't help but feel like it was suffering from lack of direction. This film has a very Forrest Gump feel to it, and I'm of the opinion that it could also reach that level of acclaim with a little push. It wouldn't be too hard to pull this into a full-length feature with more developed characters, which would definitely service the film in a good way. It's too short to really give us the heartache that it wants to, although it does give you quite a good punch in the chest.

The performances are all pretty good. Nobody was laughably bad or unbelievable. In fact, the characters and their lines were all quite realistic. Perhaps a little too realistic. The dialogue was, with absolutely no exception, extraordinarily awkward. I know, I know, Michael Cera, but it was bad even for him. Maybe that was the intent, and as an artist I get that sometimes you absolutely want to capture every unappealing detail of real life, but the end result is something uncomfortable to sit through. Now, okay, it's not supposed to be comfortable. Maybe I could give it cookies for succeeding in what it wanted to accomplish. Unfortunately, the level of discomfort brought about by the poor scripting could cause the meaning of the film to be lost on its audience, as it was on me the first time I watched it.

In short, Gregory Go Boom is a difficult movie to peg. It claims to be a comedy, acts like a tragedy, feels like Forrest Gump, comes off like a home movie. With a little spit and polish, this could really shine. I hope the producers, the actors, the writers, and anyone else who worked as part of this creative team get back together and talk about how to improve what they've got, because I can't shake the feeling that this film is destined for so much more.

Until it reaches that destination, though, I'm going to have to give it an average seven. And that because, despite its flaws, something is calling me to watch it yet again. I can't mark it down if it has that pull. It obviously did something very right.

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