Thursday, November 6, 2008

"Princess Leia ain't never had no sex with Han Solo in the Star Wars."

Zach and Miri Make a Porno-Kevin Smith-2008


Zach and Miri Make a Porno. What the hell else do you need to know?

To be honest, while that is the basis of the film, I believe it was the words of the film criticism god Ebert that can sum it up, "A film isn't about what it's about." If there were ever a film that earned that statement, well better examples can be found, but you get my point.

Zach and Miri are two late 20's losers barely able to pay rent. They are best friends who have known each other since the first grade, and inconsequentially have not once felt feelings for one another. When their electric and water gets turned off and they have nowhere else to turn, they decide to make a porno for some quick cash.

And with that plot line, described in the film's title, we are off and running.

Director Kevin Smith isn't really mining new ground here with his usual raunchy, but sweet humor. And to Smith's credit his filmmaking abilities are obviously improving. The camera moves, the city looks beautiful, he plays with color palettes yet still allows it to be all character and story.

The movie opens perfectly setting the characters up by showing rather than saying, which is occasionally a fault of Smith's very wordy scripts. The first act flies by and it is perfect. Each note is hit with utter grace and everyone shines. Justin Long steals the show though as a gay porn star. He plays it against the usual stereotype of homosexuals, but at the same time, is playing up those same stereotypes.

After the first act though, the comedy gets a little hit and miss. This is especially true for a certain sight gag that really doesn't fit in here, even amidst all the raunch.

When they begin making the porno is where I believe Kevin Smith has achieved a new level of maturity with his writing. This is not to say that the jokes are mature, but what he sets up is at once ingenious and completely fitting for the film.

It reaches a level of meta-ness. We are watching this film within a film unfold and when something happens and breaks that apart, our film reaches that same level of climax. It's hard to comment on without totally giving away but if you aren't paying attention then it comes across as cheesy but when you get the irony it plays out perfectly. Especially when Jason Mewes(Jay in the other of the View Askew films) gets to lay out the films themes with subtlety by explaining the dutch rutter to Zach.

Those that are saying Smith is trying to grab hold of Apatow's thunder may be somewhat right, but in retrospect he actually chose Rogen as Zach before Knocked Up even hit theatres. So at that point Rogen was still virtually unknown. Everyone seems to forget that it is Apatow that has taken the formula of Smith, yet made it a little more accessible and mainstream. If asked to say which one was the better filmmaker, all that anyone would need to do is look at the frames of the films. While Smith isn't some supreme visual artist his films have a look all their own, while Apatow's films, in regards to looks, could be directed by most anyone.

In the end with all of it's shortcomings I think in terms of filmmaking, Zach and Miri is a huge step up for Smith. But with all the praise I have given I was slightly disappointed. I have found much beauty and worth in many of Smith's efforts(Chasing Amy especially) and was hoping to find that same level. Not in the sheer look or feel of the film, but in terms of the screenplay I don't feel like Smith focused enough on these characters when we reached the film within a film section. He focused not only on the meta-narrative I already discussed, but also on poop jokes and sex jokes in terms that could be distracting. Although I particularly thought that Jason Mewes and Katie Morgan's sex scene was hilariously staged and executed.

Smith makes personal films, and that resonates with a lot of people. Those who don't like him have their reasons, and those reasons are perfectly understandable, but when you do relate to his canon on a transcendent level they become more than the sum of their parts.


In news sort of related to this review; after seeing Zach and Miri Make a Porno I have decided that for my next director study I am going to look at the 7 films Kevin Smith made before Zach and Miri. I know that in terms of credibility this may not make me look like the most knowledgeable film blogger out there, but I have a real affection for the man and many of his films. This is not to say that I believe he is the best filmmaker out there of course, but I have found surprising amounts of depth and beauty in the world Smith creates and have always wanted to delve a little deeper into that. So starting in a few weeks Kevin Smith will get the Deadpan run down.


Fletch said...

Don't apologize for liking Smith. Ever read Chuck Klosterman? There's no shame in admitting pleasure attained from mainstream pop culture. We can't all love our art movies all the time; sometimes, junk food is better for you.

Dead Pan said...

Thanks Fletch.

I just don't want the people that started reading during my Hitchcock marathon to think I'm just some sort of fanboy. But I totally agree with you and I shouldn't be at all ashamed. =)