This week:
The Shape of Things

Filthy says:
"This art smells like shit.

I wish I'd seen Daddy Day Care because I just can't get enough of those gags about kids with loose bowels. I saw the preview and there was a gag about some little kid new to potty training who takes a shit on the walls, the ceiling and everywhere else. That's comedy fucking gold. It takes a very special screenwriter to put that sort of thing into a script. I mean, that guy must be one hell of an prick to think that's funny.

But Hollywood is full of special people. People who work harder than anyone else to plumb the depths of the common denominator and sell us whatever they scrape off the bottom. Just when you think they can't go any lower in their efforts to replace comedy with synthetic poopoo jokes, they do. They try just a little harder to be unimaginative.

With Daddy Day Care at least you know that it's only going to be lousy. That's better than what I got with The Shape of Things, which was lousy, but also smug. It's the kind of half-baked crapola that gives independent cinema a bad name. Well, besides the annoying audience of Downtown is so much better assholes who think that proximity to a Starbuck's is just as good as personality.

I would have rather seen shit-flinging babies.

The Shape of Things was first a pretentious play that snobs could go to and pat themselves on the back for watching. Without having to do any deep thinking, they could pretend they had been provoked. It's actually that calculated type of provocation that is meant to make single-malt-drinking, tweed-wearing NPR cultists feel they are sophisticated for not being offended while expecting the unwashed masses to be. The value is in the assumption that someone else will be offended by it. Being unwashed. I can say I wasn't offended by the content, just the self-satisfied, lazy execution.

What a Goddamn waste of film stock. Really, if I wanted to watch an asshole masturbate I'd put a mirror in my bedroom. Writer-director Neil Labute has made two movies I liked (In the Company of Men and Nurse Betty) and now he's just wasting time and energy acting like a screaming two year old: He wants attention, but he can't remember why anymore, just that he wants it.

Paul Rudd plays a college student in the same way that the cast of Beverly Hills 90210 played high school students. Meaning, he looks closer to getting a 10% discount at Wendy's than being 21. He's a doofus, chubby, gawky, nervous and insecure until he meets the only college student who could possibly be older than his, Rachel Weisz. She's a wild art student who, for no reason the audience can see, likes Rudd. Similarly, why the fuck Rudd likes her is a mystery. I wouldn't. She's a screechy, speechifying pain in the ass. See, it's one of those bullshit movies where we can't see the chemistry between the characters because there is none. That's essential to the boffo, twist ending. We just have to take our lumps for 90 minutes.

Weisz encourages Rudd to change his looks. He loses weight, gets contact lenses, dumps his dorky clothes and gets a nose job. As he becomes more attractive, he becomes more confident. His old flame realizes she loves him. His best friend becomes bitter that he can no longer ridicule him. Finally, Weisz makes him choose between his friends and her. The big twist ending is that Rudd has been Weisz's graduate thesis. She never loved him, she just reshaped him to show how superficial society is. And we're treated to her spending fifteen minutes explaining how superficial society is. That's the movie's climax. The big twisteroo. Bor-fuck-ing. Pre-fucking-dictable. It's someone giving us a morals lecture about how Weisz can do this because there is no morality in art. Labute's out from the rule his movie argues is that what he's made isn't art. It's shit. I guess there can be morality in shit.

The movie fails so miserably because it's not full of people. It's full of chess pieces with mouths. They all talk a lot, but everything they is all Neil Labute's, arbitrarily assigned to different mouths. The actions of the characters are unlikely, the sympathetic characters are too shallow be worth giving a goat's eighth tit about. Labute holds back almost all of the character development or detail because he's so beholden to his big surprise ending. The problem is, there are so many pieces missing that it's pretty impossible not to spend your time figuring it out on your own.

Some movies feel like plays. This movie is a fucking play, filmed outside. It's one of the most static and speechy movies I've ever seen. Why the fuck turn the play into a movie if you arenít going to take advantage of the medium? The action is comprised entirely of characters walking from one spot to another to finish their speeches.

You know when, a few days after an argument with a friend, it's still going on in your head. You imagine that your pal is so stupid he only says things to which you can respond wittily and piercingly? Then, the next time you see your friend, he turns out to be not as stupid as you hoped, and all the brilliant retorts you stocked up are worthless? Well, The Shape of Things is a compilation of the imagined responses: they are superficially witty, but don't really answer the questions.

The acting in The Shape of Things is over-the-top melodrama, just like in a play. That's because people who go to plays love bad acting. They love Liza Minelli, Alan Cummings and Joel Grey. They love when people become histrionic or traipse around and moan. They use words like "delicious" to describe non-foods. In movies, you're supposed to get closer to the people, and they can act more realistically. Not here. Rudd's initial dorkiness is unbelievably floppy and overdone. I spent 15 minutes thinking, "Fantastic! The retarded guy's going to get laid." Weisz is badly one dimensional in order to save her big secret. It makes no sense that anyone would want to hang around her, let alone fall in love. Worst of all, these people all recite their lines from rote. There's little emotion or belief in what they're saying.

It's crap. It's worse than the worst Hollywood can make because it believes it's so much better. I would have rather been at Daddy Day Care because at least it would suck without talking down to me. Assholes like Neil Labute should be reading high profile, artsy fartsy books at Starbucks and overpriced bars, or even playhouses, but not clogging up movie screens. One Finger for The Shape of Things.

Want to tell Filthy Something


Filthy's Reading
Erik Larson- The Devil in the White City

Listening to
Holly Golightly - Singles Roundup



Jon Urbancich of Sun Newspapers

Daddy Day Care has "Huge, huge laughs!"

Identity is "A top-notch thriller fresh enough to become a mini-classic!"