Sunday, May 17, 2015

Fangirling didn't make this worth it

I'm a pretty focused fan of Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Imperial Teen, and pretty much anything that any member of FNM has ever worked on. This is a medium-defying interest that I have, and recently crossed over from a fixation with music to a foray into mid '00s indie flicks.

Firecracker is a movie about one spectacularly fucked-up family interacting with a spectacularly fucked-up carnival. Everything is miserable, no one is happy, and pretty much nothing in the film makes sense. Which is SO frustrating because I wanted to adore this film. I wanted it to be good so that I could happily re-watch it on a biannual basis and re-confirm my admiration for Mike Patton, who happens to play two roles in the movie. That's not going to work out, apparently, because the movie sucks and I'm not sure anything could save it.

Well, maybe some pretty heavy editing could save it. The movie has some big goddamned problems but one of the biggest issues is the abruptness that pervades it - we go from seeing a kindly older brother giving his kid brother some cash for the carnival to seeing the same older brother fly off the handle and reduce his younger brother to tears in about ten minutes. There's no illustration of a history of abuse, there's no tension demonstrated, you're just suddenly expected to fear the nice dude who let his brother go to the carnival because he's suddenly supposed to be a believable and intimidating monster with no context. The kid brother falls in love with a carnival performer based on watching her sing one song and talking to her for two minutes - there's no exchange of charged eye-contact or building of attraction or attention, you're just supposed to accept that after five minutes of contact this kid is willing to give up his life to follow a sideshow performer who happens to look exactly like his abuse-enabling mom.

After some very bad and very unbelievable things have happened, a lady shaman who lives under a tree full of bottles comes to town because the earth is screaming in sympathy with a hidden body. The previous sentence may seem like it comes out of fucking nowhere, but the lady shaman who tears at the dirt and knows all that passes on her land was given about that amount of introduction in the actual film. One second you're dealing with a bizarre family and a more-bizarre carnival and that's e-fucking-nough, then BAM! Lady shaman. Why the hell not?

So maybe some editing could have helped things out a bit. Maybe a director who was a bit more restrained, maybe a bigger budget and better actors. Karen Black was actually shockingly fantastic for most of the movie (hamming it right the hell up and appearing to enjoy it) but Jak Kendall and Mike Patton were, unfortunately, just not very good. Patton was okay as David, the abusive older brother, but was terrible and kept hitting sour notes as Frank, the abusive carnival owner. Kendall was just a really inexperienced actor who didn't appear to understand human emotions and had never heard the world "subtlety." In most of his scenes Kendall is reduced to screwing up his face and shaking his shoulders in an unconvincing display of crying. Though, again, I'm not sure how much Kendall should be blamed for it because if a character ends up fake-crying in 4/5ths of their scenes you probably need to fire the writer who wrote the character, not the actor playing the character.

The opening shot of the film is great, though. A long run through a silent, black and white, town textured with a muted worry of shouts and wind ends at the gaping black door of a shed, from which emerges a horror-stricken woman. That's a great way to get started - it's interesting, it's clear, it's intriguing, and it's then unfortunately followed up with two hours of celluloid that are none of those things.

     - Alli

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