R, for language mostly. But the movie does start off with a floating Michael Keaton in his underwear. In fact, there's a lot of Michael Keaton in his whitey tighties. They probably just added the swearing because they couldn't R-rating a movie about a guy who spends a lot of his time just wearing briefs.
DIRECTOR: Alejandro G. Iñárritu
See, now I'm in a pickle. If I say I hate this movie, that means I'm lying because I really, really don't. If I say I love this movie, I get categorized as a film snob, but a dumb film snob who thinks he knows when something is artsy when it genuinely isn't. I don't know why I would read IMDB reviews, but this is what I gleaned. A lot of people crap on this movie really hard and I'm genuinely flummoxed. I'm going to go as far as to say that this might be one of my favorite movies of the past decade. The only real problem is the parentheses in the title, which messes with my listing of the title next to the release year. Yeah. That's me.
I made the mistake of buying this movie on a crazy Amazon sale (I'm blaming Amazon despite the fact that my wife will be angry at me regardless) when it came out. For some fluke, Amazon had it massively discounted immediately upon release. I had just seen it a month before when I was shotgunning all of the Best Picture nominees and lost my mind over this movie. I loved it so much that I knew I had to own it...but I had just watched it. Say what you will, I needed to give this movie some distance. Also, I'm sure Lauren would have rolled her eyes at me pretty hard had I suggested that I would like to watch the movie we just saw again. Do you know how I know that? It's been three years since I saw this movie and she thought it was silly that I was watching it again. She claimed I just wanted to write a review about it. I did want to write a review about it, but I also wanted to watch it, thank you very much. This movie just hits me in a sweet spot of film that makes me okay to watch it over and over again. I don't think Iñárritu is necessarily the best director (albeit he is very impressive) because I didn't think that The Revenant isn't the movie I needed it to be. (Yes, I made it about me.) However, I do think he has a way with storytelling and experimentation that a lot of contemporary directors may lack. The movie is extremely experimental and people say that's like it is a bad thing. This film takes Rope's invisible cut and tries pushing it into the digital age. Yeah, yeah, it's a little bit of a cheat. Hitchcock couldn't use his film reels to have Michael Keaton fly through Times Square, but I think that he might appreciate that it should be done.
The invisible cut throughout a film always impresses me. It might be a little on the nose to use the invisible cut to tell a story about a stage play, but Iñárritu doesn't allow the narrative to simply be a stage play on film. Rather, the camera is a violent character, whipping around and playing. If anything, the camera is afraid to stay still. This has to be a choice. I refuse to believe that I live in a world where someone isn't aware that a stage play is most authentic with a still camera and someone intentionally subverts that concept. I could watch the special features or peruse the Wikipedia article, but I have, like, four more reviews to catch up on. Plus, you know, my actual job. The long cut is usually pretty impressive, but the I've never really seen the long cut work when the chronology is all over the place. Usually, the long cut is used to tell an important, real time element. Rather, by making the long cut in a film that allows time to be more fluid, it only stresses the playfulness of these moments. To add to this, and I really can't explain this, it adds an emotional element to each moment. The film is divided into important scenes, but these scenes have the added feature of being spatially related. This may be a happy accident, but showing how one person's drama is directly physically related to another adds a very bizarre element to the whole thing. The only way that this can really be paid off is with amazing performances and shut up if you don't agree with me on how good these performances are. Honestly, this casting is absolutely perfect. Purr. Fekt. So good. I hear Edward Norton is kind of a jerk. I don't care. He's an amazing actor and I'm floored that I don't see him in more things. (I get it. If people don't want to work with you and whatnot. I don't care. He's that good.) It feels a little bit on the nose to have him play a role where his performance is always dead on, but he's so caustic to every production he signs onto that he destroys the morale. Okay, that's pretty on point. Then there's Michael Keaton, a man famous for playing a famous comic book role and having a hard time making a resurgence. The movie just basks in its own uncomfortableness. (The proper word is "discomfort", but that seemed like a weak choice.) Both of these actors crush, but they have an amazing supporting cast as well. I love Zach Galifianakis when he's not being comedic. I don't know why I usually approve of such things. Bill Murray serious? Genius. Jim Carrey serious? Mostly genius. Galifianakis has some pretty solid acting chops in this and I'm glad he's distancing himself from the Hangover films. (I also hear that he's difficult to work with.) Finally, Emma Stone. I love me some Emma Stone. She's fantastic in everything I've seen of hers and this is no exception. Perhaps her character is a bit of a cliche, but I don't care. She destroys a character that other characters would play safe. She's absolutely fantastic.
There's this emotional and metaphysical core to this movie. Watching the movie for its A plot, the tale of a production running into constant frustrations, is great. I love Keaton's arc of a man who fights for artistic integrity despite the fact that the world wants him to fail. This element alone makes it a great film. It almost doesn't need the metaphysical stuff. But the metaphysical stuff is just so great that I can't even contain it. It breaks up what could easily be a My Dinner With Andre style plot ends up being something surreal. It made me straight up grumpy hearing all the complaining about the ambiguous ending. There are even YouTube videos claiming that the end isn't ambiguous. This is one of the better ambiguous endings ever and I want to leave it as such. It is one of those endings that reflects the viewers cynicism and beliefs. Is he imagining all of this or did it really happen? Yes. You decide that and establish what you view about the world. Why do I need that explained? It's not like Castaway where I'm really owed anything. The story didn't depend on it. It is an interpretation of the character. SPOILERY: If you want my two cents, I think it establishes that the world is a little bigger than this play and that his suicide wasn't an actual suicide. He has transcended the stupid moments of his life. Remember, I'm the cynic and that's how I view that ending. But even verbalizing this moment seems to cheapen it. I could also view it the completely other way and see it as one last hallucination before hitting the ground. Both are awesome endings and that's what I care about. I don't need it spelled out.
I love this movie so much. I could go on for a while. But it would mostly be gushing about how beautifully it is shot and how much depth there is despite the fact that most people call it superficial. I love watching this movie and I hope to convince my wife to let me watch it again soon. You don't have to like it, but I hope you at least consider watching it without a judgment call attached.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.