A Delightfully Tipsy Response to Generation Why? November 6, 2009

Please excuse the slapdash nature of this response. I am privileged to know the filmmaker in question, the lovely Brendan Prost, so it seemed a little impersonal just to do a review, and besides, who the fuck am I to judge, right? Objectivity is out of the question, so this piece will be formatted as a hybrid collection of thoughts and response directly to an auteur as talented as he is short (which is to say, very).

I.The Skinny

Generation Why? (from here on referred to as GW) is ostensibly a movie about rebellion. Not the wet slap rebellion of adolescence, absent the multicolored hairstyles and Juggalo face paint. It is more a rebellion at an age where rebellion is seen as not just juvenile, but pathetic. Patience is relatively boundless while a person is in high school with a society at large conditioned to expect a certain degree of ridiculousness out of a person aged 13-19. GW attempts to understand an the disconcertingly immediate change in expectations following the graduation from that age bracket, and is fairly effective in doing so. However, I am of the opinion that that is not where the greatest philosophical strength of the film lies. I’ll get back to that.

II. “I shouldn’t even be here today.”

The film opens with resonant images of a malaise known to generations previous, but never so strangled by the service industry as recently. The mere fact our main character John (John Delahunt) works at a record store instead of a movie store is a nice little bit of restraint on the part of Mr.Prost (and how on Earth did you get to shoot at Play? That stirred a hometown something in, I tell you).

The nature of John’s job and interests is highly problematic. John is a pretty savvy guy when it comes to matters of pop culture. At one point, he decides to demonstrate his film buff-ery by schooling his companion Mike (Mike Thorn) on his tastes in film. The film he decides to talk about is Babel, the semi-shitty Brad Pitt vehicle where they equated Japanese upskirt shots with Oscar glory (I will assume, Mr.Prost, that putting the words “Babel was much better than movie X” in the mouth of a character who is systemically proved wrong on nearly everything is your comment on the film. It must be, because we all know Babel was a mediocre lump of cynical Oscar-bait). This tells us two things about the film. The first is that it is not a period piece. The second is, that it is a fiction aware of other fiction. Herein lies a problem.

If we have a character in a film aware of other fictions waxing on about the malaise of service sector occupations, it almost screams Clerks. But no reference is made. Which I thought was a little odd. Say what you will about the quality of Kevin Smith films, Clerks gained much of its accolades out of it’s depictions of very similar sentiments. The rock and hard place here is immense; a direct reference would be trite, whereas totally ignoring it would seem disingenuous.

This point doesn’t really go anywhere, but it’s something I was thinking about.

III.Half Of Success Is Showing Up

As a filmmaker, Brendan is of the right sort. I really want to address this because I think it’s important.

The first time I met Mr.Prost was at a screening of another film of his, Whodunit. Brendan had a successful screening of an independent (not indie, mind) film at a large theater in a major city in a G8 country at a time where most people his age were thinking about graduation and mid-terms and what party to go to on Friday.

The screening of GW was (as far as I can remember) our fourth (thats 2+2) personal, in the same room interaction. That passion and dedication was put on display as he haggled for 10 minutes with Shell basement supervisors to be able to screen his film unadulterated and in it’s entirety.

This doesn’t really have anything to do with the film, but it is important, commendable and unique, and is worth mentioning.

I suppose I could say this passion is the direct antithesis of ideas professed in GW, but I am not nearly that far up my own ass. Maybe.

IV.Brevity Is The Soul Of Wit

From the GW Official Website:

Think of the overly-talkative and insightful qualities of a Richard Linklater film like Waking Life coupled with the off-beat sense of humour and colorful characters found in Wes Anderson’s Bottle Rocket in a feature film with a unique and powerful story arc.

Overly-talkative is right. There is nothing wrong with dialogue. In fact, I am a huge fan of talking too much (as my friends will attest). But embrace the medium! Show! Tell, but a little less! Some of the dialogue is fantastic, but there is few writers in the world who can make almost 2 solid hours of dialogue compelling.

Tim Burton got some flack (apparently) when he did Sweeny Todd. Instead of taking the traditional way out and doing what amounts to filming the stage show, he chose to embrace the medium to great effect. I love what Mr. Prost has done with the subject matter, but the script reads like Sartre. I want to see more of you showing us what you mean, because when you do, it is shades of spectacular.

Plentiful, the talking was. Not bad, but plentiful. Write some books too, Brendan.

V. Postal Peripeteia

That shot where Mike goes away for a bit, and then runs back and flying kicks the newspaper box was hilarious. The long shot was a great technique, but the dead air on screen lasted maybe 5 seconds too long. It was long enough that at some point I was liking it, and then the next moment I was wondering if it was an error in the edit. Food for thought.

This is a good place to mention that for a film made on a pretty tight budget and on a single camera the achievements in cinematography were vast. Well done.

VI. Bad Medicine

That one part where John happens upon the mid-day house party and then sets upon the Corona drinking Civilian was one of the great moments of the film. It starts out as this altercation between perceived classes, the popped collar brigade versus the enlightened assholes, and then devolves into this brutal depiction of a man beating the hell out of the monster he has created. Truly brilliant.

VII. Shilly Shally Dilly Dally

This is more of a side note. As an outside observer I can make these observations, also because I am pretentious. Have you noticed, Mr. Prost, that this is the second major work of yours where you cast yourself as a suicidal character? And both times it has this air of martyrdom about it, in Whodunit your character’s death taught society a lesson, and in GW, your attempt knocked some sense into the Vast Split-Shift Conspiracy.

Something to think about, sir.

VIII. Contract With Dog

I think, then, the film was one about growth. The ability to leave your childish things behind, internalize potential and act on a path that will let you reach your goal. Not knowing what’s next is a part of it, and a truly great one.

Growth is truly the order of the day, because in the short time I have known Brendan Prost, I have been privileged to be able to witness the monumental growth of a filmmaker. It is a film obsessed with the past, and I for one hope that it was cathartic enough for Prost to put it all in a steamer trunk and toss it in the river. The hard drive crash that plagued the film in the aftermath was symbolic.

A stunning achievement. A stunning advancement for a filmmaker. You made Kingsley Amis proud in the process of becoming a better filmmaker, and that is fantastic.

I’m very excited for the next one.

IX. Liquor Run

I’m out of thoughts and out of drink now.

X. Ridley Scott Invented The Future

I want a DVD so I can write something a little less scattered. I need at least another viewing so I can remember some of the stuff I wanted to say. As it stands, @allisonhiro is going to yell at me and probably beat me with a sign that says “Citation Needed”. I don’t need that.