Thursday, March 10, 2011
Written by Jonathan Glatzer, Robert Lawson
Directed by Jonathan Glatzer
Starring Steve Coogan, Hillary Duff, Olivia Thirlby, Molly Shannon
Reporter dude does a profile of a woman whose son committed suicide. Then the woman commits suicide but the reporter, unbeknownst to his editor, keeps writing pieces about her because he was sleeping with her and he discovered her suicide. In order to shake him up, the editor sends him to the town where Christie Macaulliffe works as a teacher. (Oh, yeah. This is set right before the Challenger launch. That's important.) To cover the school's reaction to her deal. He has an estranged college chum who lives in the area; and upon arrival he learns that said chum killed himself. This dude was some strange art teacher and the reporter ends up interacting with those students rather than covering the launch thingy.
this was kind of weird. no doubt it was put on our queue due to steve coogan, but, man, i dislike hillary duff. i feel like i would have like this better in my angsty teen years. i could see it being a movie that the angry youth could gravitate towards. it had some elements that vaguely reminded me of "welcome to the dollhouse" but just done more poorly. ultimately, i think this was a movie with a lack of focus. there were so many different things going on with so many different genres and characters. there was the challenger launch, the girl in the wheelchair thing, there was coogan and duff, there was the two weird girls hijacking molly shannon's vision, there was the teacher that committed suicide, there was the kid obsessed with duff and masturbating to the principal's breastfeeding wife, there was the pregnant girl...the list goes on. and the only thing connecting them all was the fact they were in the homeroom of the guy that killed himself, or did he? and steve coogan knew him in college. this is all smashed into an hour and a half movie so there is no time to learn about and bond with all or any of these characters. i don't think i would recommend this unless you are a 15 or 16 year old outcast teen girl.
I like Steve Coogan. I love him as Alan Partridge and I have enjoyed his performances in many other works. I also enjoyed him in this role, as a man who's continuing to learn about the boundaries between reporter and subject. That's an odd entree into being the most stable main character in this truly bizarre undertaking, a movie filled with odd characterizations of oddball high school students and staff. It takes "small town quaint" to a whole new place; and part of me would like to believe that places filled with all these different weirdos still (yes, even 25 whole years ago) exist somewhere in this country.
We sit in a deep ravine directly under a bridge of disbelief which is suspended by wires seemingly specified to the exact weight of the story with no tolerances whatsoever. We hear the wires creak and we see them flex. How does nobody know about the girlfriend's death? How is it that this town is not just teeming with reporters? Where the fuck are the parents of these kids? Where the fuck, for that matter, are the other teachers? It kind of makes sense why only a couple of the kids question his veracity, but not really.
The wires held this over my head because there's no real omniscient observer point of view in the film. While there are a few scenes without Coogan, most of the outcomes of those scenes could have easily been relayed to him after the fact. Cameras are generally close to the action and the production actually does a good job of capturing the atmosphere of such a town.
It seems to me that the best (read: easiest viewpoint from which it's plausible) way to look at the thing is as a kind of Thompson-esque first person journalistic narrative as written by Coogan's character after the fact.
Yeah, I like that. We'll go with that.