A Cult Classic for Our Manic Generation
19 Sep, 2012
This genre-obliterating movie will become a cult classic. It throws EVERYTHING at you and demands that you keep up. And you’ll be able to, because there’s a safeguard in place in case you can’t. You’ll have either stopped watching after the first 10 minutes or your mind will have already exploded. That’s almost not an exaggeration because this movie is a full on blitzkrieg of genres, tropes, clichés, and references. To say that this taps into the zeitgeist of the public consciousness is an understatement. There’s meta and then there’s this, because everything there is to know about our generation’s youth culture is in here. But there’s brilliance to this madness. There’s really no way to describe this movie without rattling off at least a few things to give you some insight on what you’ll encounter: a slasher serial killer, time travel, a human fly, the idea of retro, conspiracies, body-swapping, high school debate, aliens, a love triangle, the end of the world, stereotypes, breaking the fourth wall, and a bear. It also happens to be a mashup of Heathers, Scream, The Breakfast Club, The Karate Kid, Back to the Future, Community, Donnie Darko, Saw, The Butterfly Effect, My So-Called Life, and Varsity Blues… to name a few. This movie invokes the essence of both Bronson Pinchot of Perfect Strangers AND Patrick Swayze of Roadhouse. Starting to get it?
I guess the easiest through line to latch onto is the love triangle that exists between the main character Riley, the object of her affection Clapton, and the popular girl Ione. But that doesn’t even begin to describe it because there’s technically a similar thread that binds every other person to these three in some weird deranged way. As someone in his late twenties, I think people in my age range exist in the perfect sweet spot for enjoying this movie. I’m old enough to get and appreciate all the references from the ‘90s but also still young enough to still be engrossed in the manic vapidity that results from the 24/7 social media connectedness and manufactured sense of self-importance.
From the opening scene the rules are pretty much all spelled out. And then they’re completely destroyed within five minutes and you immediately realize you don’t know where this film is going. But then you get what this movie is really about, but you’re wrong again, except that you’re not. It’s everything all at once, in perfect syncopated lunacy. It’s not for the sake of randomness though – in fact, far from it. Within all the rapid-fire delivery of lines and scenes there’s an actual commentary on today’s youth culture in its obsession with obsession itself. Facebook, Youtube, Twitter – we’re living in a world of manufactured need. You need to know what everyone is doing, you need to tell people what you’re doing, it needs to be recorded and shared, and it needs to be right now. There’s nowhere to go from immediate, from instantaneous. Any further back and you’re in the past, which makes sense that there’s a time travel element to this movie.
Director Joseph Kahn, who is a veteran of the music video world, unabashedly captures the world in which we live now. Exaggerated, sure, but the sentiment is spot on. But it’s not a cautionary tale at all, more of a love letter to how far we’ve come. And maybe it’s too far, who’s to say, but this movie doesn’t have that kind of agenda. It’s mainly concerned with breaking down the walls of what’s come to be expected. It doesn’t ask you to conform to anything or presume that you should, because its main conceit is that you can’t. The film uses irony at great lengths to illustrate how longstanding ideas and rules don’t apply in today’s society. And he does this through a brute force barrage of sensory overload. You can’t pigeon hole this movie into a genre any more than you can/should identify someone by any single criterion. It’s as if everything out there were plucked out and sampled from the ether and jam-packed into a 93-minute container. The most amazing thing about this is that there’s a cohesive and comprehensible story that ties it all together. But even then, it was made for repeated viewing, as there are layers upon layers of wit, jokes, references, and irony that will undoubtedly become a cult level stopping point of our generation.
It’s a roller coaster that you just need to ride. And when you make it through, if you get nothing out of it other than superficial enjoyment, then you’d have still figured out at least the subject of what the other layers of this movie are discussing.
By David C. Sales
About the author
David Sales is a suburban kid at heart with a New York state of mind. He earned a degree in social interaction, forewent a legal career, and is now a highly sought after commodity in the film industry. His favorite movie is Great Expectations by Alfonso Cuarón and one day dreams of becoming a wild success to prove his worth. Tempered by his philosophy that being deep is better than being shallow, he aspires to keep striding forward while never forgetting where he came from. Most people would agree he’s already forgotten.