The Killing: David Wain's 'They Came Together'
It's one thing to complain about something. It's a better thing to do something about it.
David Wain, with his latest film They Came Together, did something beyond dismissing the cliches and lies that construct the typical romantic comedy. He went out, bought a gun, and shot it in its face. This isn't just a carefully executed film, it's an execution, period.
Wain's film is a careful dance: outright parody becomes as predictably unfunny as those Scary Movie sequels, but play it note for note and you have a Gus Van Sant's tribute to Psycho.
So it's not a formula but a meticulous approach that allows cliches to be played completely through, and then sodomized.
The movie has a message beyond it's hilariousness -- an indictment of the false and pernicious bullshit found in romantic comedies -- a soulless product that goes out of its way to avoid real truths about relationships and marriage. Romantic comedies are no different than pornography, in that both target and saturate a need and leave you worse off than before. Both lie to you, simply by ending before reality sets in.
Porn dumps out before the STD's, compulsion, or moral emptiness rear their horrifying heads, and romantic comedies roll the credits before infatuation turns to the mundane.
They Came Together presses on after the biological novelty of love dims, if only temporarily. They Came Together, like They Live, is a hateful movie. But smart hate beats dumb love hands down.
The movie's parodic set pieces might be mistaken for moments of absurdity if you didn't sense the targets being eviscerated. The two best scenes of the film -- the amazing bar scene and the "bubby" atrocity -- rely on a prior knowledge of all the shitty films that came before. They're funny, however, even if you aren't a student of a grim genre. The bar scene rivals "Who's on First" for its brutal repetition.
The fact that Rex Reed gave the movie no stars highlights the risks in expecting more than an audience, or critic, can deliver. But Reed isn't the audience.
Speaking of, there is only one way to watch this movie: on iTunes, at home.
For I fear the knowing laughter by the "I get the joke but the rest of you didn't" crowd (repeat offenders at Neil Hamburger shows) might be worse on your psyche than the material being lampooned. Someone should lampoon them (and by them, I mean me).
It's a natural human reaction to laugh at something you know illustrates your recognition of a nuance others miss. But it also leads to laughing at everything just to be safe. I saw this behavior recently at Robert Wilson's absurdist play "The Old Woman." Entertaining as hell, but totally incoherent -- people laughed even when horrible things were said. It was weird.
And it drives me nuts, because I used to do it too. Anyone at a Hamburger show knows that your laughter is a message of superiority, and I fear that would happen in a theater with They Came Together. The reflex is worse than talking to the screen. So watch it at home, to avoid such spasms.
This review is not to imply that the average moviegoer doesn't see the inherent cliches and lies in romantic comedies and that only hipster filmmakers get it. In fact, I figure many people see these films, and don't care -- preferring to enjoy the story anyway. It's like overlooking plot holes in action movies and the calculated preciousness of Wes Anderson. People aren't stupid. Some are just more forgiving than creeps like me.
On a related note: Michael Ian Black is fantastic playing the stock smarmy douche bag.
Perhaps because it was a role he was born to play. :)