The Way Way Back

This sullen son of a bitch gets cranky about working at water park. When I was a kid I was flipping burgers at the King. And now I sound old.

A lot of movie reviewers like to talk about the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She’s a narrative device basically used to give the hero a quirky, cute chick to bang. Generally speaking, she doesn’t walk or talk like a normal broad. Usually she’s perfect in an almost offensive, unrealistic way. Yet, for better or worse, most films have some version of her in them. That’s not a bad thing, necessarily. It just is. But, while I was watching The Way, Way Back, I noticed that there’s an entire genre of film that acts exactly like Manic Pixie Dream Girls do.

The Way, Way Back stars this depressed kid as he spends the summer at his mother’s boyfriend’s beach house. He hates it. In fact, he pretty much hates everything. His mother’s boyfriend is a douche bag. His mother doesn’t really pay attention to him. And the hot chick living next door won’t give him the time of day. So he’s all, “Fuck this, I’m gonna hang out at the water park all summer.” He gets a job there and slowly starts to grow into himself.

It’s a very sweet and funny movie. The characters are vibrant. The jokes are plentiful. And the camerawork and soundtrack are perfectly indie. And that throws this film in a strange meta-world where everything is almost too manicured.

Once or twice a year Hollywood releases an independent exactly like The Way, Way Back. Juno and Little Miss Sunshine are the perfect examples. All three films are filled dysfunctional characters who all know how to speak in whip-smart dialogue. They are the Manic Pixie Dream Flick.

Because, yes, they all rock. They’re great movies that are designed to manipulate you into feeling a serene sense of euphoria that makes you laugh and grow as a human being. They’re also just enough depth for you to chew on, give you conversations the next time you want to debate shit with your friends.

Now, on one hand, I hate to be manipulated. Unless it’s my balls, you can manipulate those until the cows come home. But, on the other, these are all interesting character pieces that Hollywood is loath to make anymore. It’s very conflicting. Because, no the Manic Pixie Dream Flick doesn’t exist. Every movie has imperfections. Every movie will let you down sometimes. But these quirky independent films are a glass of cold water in a desert of fighting superheroes.

Grade: B+

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Seven Psychopaths

Plus, you know, dog. Every film needs a dog.

I’ve long been under the belief that a large part of enjoyment of cinema rests with how closely a film’s aim meets the resulting expectation. Because every film is a contract. They promise something: make you laugh, make you cry, make you pop a boner, and sometimes, in boring talky independent films, they just promise to have to people sitting around talking for two hours.

And, believe it or not, from my unscientific polling of myself, most everyone hates a film that reneges on expectations. On those ground alone, I’m willing to turn my back on Seven Psychopaths. Yet, as frustrating as it is, there’s something deeply entertaining about this quirky little film.

The film centers on three buddies. One is trying to write a script. The other two kidnap dogs. The dog nappers end up stealing a gangsters dog and, basically, wacky shenanigans ensue. But, despite what the commercials say, it’s not the type of shenanigans you’re expecting.

Frankly, fucking spoiler alert and shit, everything that’s in the trailer is more or less in the first 40 minutes. After that, well, it’s a total, strange meta trip of a film that, frankly, I can’t quite pin down.

And, unlike other films that lie about their promises, Seven Psychopaths is so blisteringly, brazenly daffy and different that I can’t help but like it a little.

The film gets a lot of mileage out of the script writing premise. It’s a fun and strange concept that is used for all it’s worth. The type of film where a character says, “In my movie: this would happen.” And then, sure enough, that’s exactly what happens. It doesn’t circumvent expectations. It tells you them, point blank, and then makes you watch the results.

That’s… both awesome and horrible, which is why I’m not sure if I actually enjoyed myself. Because, yes, there’s a novel concept in such a straightforward narrative but tension lies in the unexpected.

Plus the dialogue thinks it’s way smarter than it actually is. Blah, I hate went dialogue exists in a stylized bubble. Just speak like normal fucking humans, damn it.

So, in a meandering nutshell, that’s what Seven Psychopaths is: fun, funny, frustrating, and a little bit too smart for it’s own good.

Grade: B-