Everything is really good this week.
I can’t remember the last time I’ve laughed or cringed this hard in a movie theater. What a breath of fresh air after all this intensely cerebral Oscar shit. The Jackass boys are back and they aren’t letting a little thing like being fifty years old stop them from pooping on and injuring themselves, all while their remarkably mediocre penises are out. They even have some new folks along the way like their first female Jackassier (whistle tips for Rachel Wolfson) and a new morbidly obese man (head nods for Zackass). I’d explain the plot, but ya’ll know there isn’t one and if you don’t know that, good luck. This is just 96 straight minutes of people intentionally injuring themselves in elaborate ways with special guest appearances by Tyler the Creator, Tony Hawk, and Eric Andre popping in to help the Jackassiers make a jackassery out of themselves. From electrified dance floors to bees on your dick to getting smashed in the nuts by a UFC heavyweight to drinking pig cum, this film is proudly disgusting and downright dangerous for people who take themselves seriously. Beyond all the depravity though, it’s really about friendship and community and facing the worst shit imaginable with the people you love and trust more than anyone. It’s about freaks finding their tribe. That’s what America is all about, so maybe you should just join ISIS if you can’t get down with this. It’s the most patriotic I’ve felt since Covid began. Grade: B+ (In Theaters)
The Worst Person in the World
One of the few 2021 holdovers I was unable to see before posting my Top 10 of 2021 list. It wouldn’t have made my top 10, but it definitely would have crept on my honorable mentions. This is a flawed to be sure, but frighteningly relatable Norwegian tale about being in your 30s and having no idea what the hell you want to do with your life. It follows Julia (Renate Reinsve), a photographer (for now) who bounces around between two relationships with Aksel, a very thoughtful but kinda shitty older controversial graphic novelist who challenges her, and who is an obvious ode to R. Crumb (Anders Danielson Lie), and Eivind, a hunky, wonderfully kind, sorta-dumb and as-aimless-as-her barista (Herbert Nordrum). In a series of not ideal decisions, she winds up in bad but awkwardly funny situations over the course of twelve chapters. It seems like this movie is being sold as a comedy but it really is not, it’s a drama with comedic elements, and stretches of the film are more heartbreaking than anything. It exists in a regimented twelve chapter structure that I found to be pretty unnecessary, it seems the movie would feel more like the free-wheeling, free-flowing nature of life it wasn’t punctuated every 20 minutes or so with a numbered title card to remind us how far into the movie it is. There are some sequences that drag a bit but 75% of the vignettes are exceptionally well done. Renate Reinsve deserved an Oscar nomination for her performance for managing to bring us a fully developed mirror image of so many of us. It does however have one of the worst and most inaccurate movie titles of the year. Julia is neither the worst person in the world by the world’s nor her own standards. She makes bad decisions but never out of malice because if she did, we simply wouldn’t care. She’s just trying her best and her best totally sucks. Maybe a better title for this would be The Biggest Fuck-Up Ever. Grade: B+ (In Theaters)
The Beta Test
Maybe the eighth wonder of the world, Jim Cummings is the king of quality DIY entertainment. From his powerful debut, Thunder Road, to his fascinating foray into werewolf horror, The Wolf of Snow Hollow, he stuns by acting, directing, writing, scoring, and editing all his own shit. His latest, The Beta Test, a satire on the most toxic industry imaginable post-#metoo, isn’t his best but perhaps gives us his best performance. He plays Jordan, a massive narcissistic asshole Hollywood agent who receives a mysterious invitation for a no-strings-attached, kinky hotel sex meet-up. Deciding to give in to his most basic animal instincts, he ends up going and having the most amazing, wild sex of his life. Then the paranoia starts to set in, and he literally breaks down in panic over the thought of possibly being canceled. This poisons everything in his orbit and begins to affect every aspect of his personal life and job as he begins to play amateur sleuth to track down where these mysterious fuck invites are coming from. There’s some wonderfully bizarre satire at the forefront of this but one wishes it was a little more clear about what it’s ultimately trying to do. A lot of the humor lies in that everything that tortures him is by his own doing and even perpetuated and made worse by his own fears and regrets he can’t control. It’s basically him having a temper tantrum about not being able to control everything in his life, at one point during a complete breakdown with his wife, he exclaims, “We just all want to be Harvey!” It’s frightening because it’s very true about not just powerful men in the industry but for most powerful men, everywhere. Control is the ultimate goal even if the byproducts of that, like horrible physical, sexual and emotional violence, shine brighter and uglier. I wish they’d explore this concept a bit more but it does get tangled up in the more outrageous and salacious elements of the film. Jim Cummings is also surrounded by very mediocre actors this time. Whenever he isn’t anchoring a scene, The Beta Test seems more amateurish than it should and when Cummings is opposite another actor in a two-hander scene, he’s so jarringly better and more nuanced than them it’s distracting. Grade: B (HULU)