Remember that motherfucker that made Happiness? His name is Todd Solondz and you might think he’s some hipster that came out of nowhere with 1996’s Welcome to the Dollhouse and then hit it big when he was Outlaw enough to refuse to cut Happiness, brought it to a different distributor who would release it unrated or whatever. Well, that’s what I thought but then I found out about this, his first picture from 1989, one year after the release of Die Hard.
And I gotta be honest this movie is a piece of shit. It is only worth watching as a curiosity for fans of the other two Solondz works. What is weird is it has all his themes of loneliness, hopelessness etc. except in the context of a more goofy mainstream comedy. Solondz is actually the star of the picture playing a struggling playwriter named Ira. And this Solondz, I mean to be frankly honest, this guy is what they call a nerd. I mean seriously. He’s a skinny, scraggly haired, overbited weirdo with gigantic glasses, a squeaky, whiny voice and weird affectations. He would be right at home in one of his other movies. But here he is cast as a Woody Allen type stuttering neurotic Writer character. And he is in a functional lifestyle with successful friends, he even goes on dates and gets laid.
What’s more Solondz wrote the lyrics to some of the songs on the soundtrack and performs one of them, “A Neat Kind of Guy,” an intentionally bad song about his character.
The acting is more cartoony here like The Toxic Avenger or something, so you think of them as movie characters and not people in your neighborhood. And with the whole struggling-in-the-New-York-art-community story this just doesn’t have that unique-vision-of-humanity’s-filth-and-ugliness feel of Happiness, it’s more of a cliche. Sometimes I wonder what the fuck is wrong with these New Yorkers that they think they’re the center of the universe. Every other movie takes place in New York or is about New York. Scorsese and Spike Lee and some of these guys, they try to use New York as a character. Letterman and O’Brien always talking about taxi drivers and subways and Rudolph Gulianni like he’s the empereror of the world and everybody is supposed to give a shit what this jackass does over there. Kubrick puts his last movie in New York, except filmed on a set, and every New Yorker on the internet has to complain about the sign on the third store from the corner of 3rd and Wino Street was actually the wrong shade of red and had a sans serif font whereas the actual sign is more of an algerian font. What an outrage!
Well fuck that man. I’m sure it’s a great place but get over it. There are plenty of other motherfuckers in this world, motherfuckers from places like LA, New Jersey and Arkansas. I’m talking West Coast, South Coast, middle American, middle Eastern. I’m talking London, France, Japanese, Chinese, Icelandic, Puerto Rican. There are many, many places in the world and almost none of them are New York. I need another movie about the New York art community like I need another TV show about lawyers. Which means I don’t need any. I mean you can make another Fear-Anxiety-Depression, you can make a show about undercover cops posing as doctors and lawyers. Do as you wish pal but you better not be proud of it. I mean jesus, why not make something new. Look at what Jarmusch is doing, making urban samurai flicks. Now that’s something new. Find something new you piece of shit I mean jesus.
Anyway that’s what Solondz did, he left the picture industry for six years or whatever and then he came back with some works that were more his own. Thanks bud you did the right thing. In this one, there is just too much jibber jabber trying to be clever. If Todd’s character would just shut up more often it would be a better movie. The best moments in Fear-Anxiety-etc. are just where something bad happens, and then there is a long shot of Todd with a stupid look on his face. That stupid look on his face is more the type of movie he is doing now, thank christ.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.