You probaly heard what Vincent Gallo’s THE BROWN BUNNY is all about, and so did I. I’m not gonna pretend I didn’t know what I was getting into. Obviously I’ve heard alot about this movie since its notorious debut over there in the Cannes. Most people said it really sucked, it sucked the big one. They said Academy Award nominee Chloe Sevigny really blew it by being in this one. Doesn’t matter if she did a good job, they said, because this movie really blows. They had a real hard time swallowing it. A real long, hard time. Also there is a blow job at the end I guess.
Gallo plays Bud Clay, a streetwise motorcycle racer who has just finished a fierce competition in New Hampshire. Now he has to get back to L.A. to have his bike tuned up by Renaldo (sort of his Q or Whistler), and only one thing can stop him: pining. He misses his former girlfriend Daisy (Chloe Sevigny) and he’s on a mission to find her. The mystery leads him on a deadly trail from Daisy’s parents house, to a pet shop, to a gas station, to a hotel, to another hotel, to Las Vegas, to another hotel, etc. Mostly down streets though. When I say “deadly,” by the way, I mean “boring.”
There is alot of driving. A whole lot of driving. Don’t worry though, he’s in a van, not on a motorbike. The motorbike is in the back of the van. So his ass probaly doesn’t hurt as bad. He does have a hole in the ass of his jeans though, because that’s the type of individual we’re dealing with here, a guy who has a hole in the ass of his jeans. You know the type.
There’s one scene where he does a little gumshoe business. Daisy’s parents say they haven’t seen her in years and don’t know where she is, but they have her pet bunny. He throws his weight around in a pet store and finds out that a bunny can only live for 4-5 years. The bunny proves that Daisy has been at her parents’ house within 4 or 5 years, probaly less. The trail hasn’t gone cold.
I guess I’m exaggerating to make it sound more Hollywood. He’s not exactly pulling a Charles Bronson on this pet shop, he’s just politely asking some questions about bunnies. The dumbest question: “Are these the bunnies?” I mean come on Bud, I think you can figure out whether or not these are the bunnies. There are ways of looking at different types of animals, examining their characteristics and discerning whether or not they are bunnies.
And by the way, yes, Daisy’s pet bunny is brown. That’s the brown bunny. It’s not some shit like he is the world’s deadliest bounty hunter, on a cross country trip to the edge of the world. Those who know him call him Bud Clay, but those who cross him know him only as… THE BROWN BUNNY.
I mean, we’re not talking a situation where this guy passed out on the salt flats and discovered the brown bunny was his spirit animal. There is a pet bunny in the movie, and it’s brown. (Though Mike D’Angelo of New York, USA swears that in an earlier cut of the movie he crashes his van and it blows up and a bunny hops out. No shit.)
I kind of liked Gallo’s first movie as a director, BUFFALO 66. In that one he played some asshole who just got out of the joint but has to piss real bad, and then you can imagine where it would go from there. Some of it’s real pretentious and I could understand why people would hate it, because Gallo’s character is such an asshole and it’s a good performance because, let’s face it, playing a whiny, sleazy, egomaniacal asshole is not the hugest stretch for this guy. In that movie there’s a ridiculous scene where he’s pissing at a urinal and some guy starts looking at his dick and freaking out saying “it’s so big!” That was the most embarassing scene in the movie and in this one Gallo takes his “I have a big dick” tendencies to the next level by actually showing his dick being sucked in the movie. (There are some theories that it’s a prosthetic johnson, because he keeps his pants on and clutches onto the thing the whole time, but I think if it was fake he would’ve gone for more of a John Holmes size. In fact, considering who we’re talking about here, he probaly woulda had it three feet long with the girth of a tree trunk.)
Gallo’s whole schtick could be called Asshole Chic. He’s always gotta be unshaven and scraggly haired and dirty lookin with an oversized belt buckle and ’70s shirts, getting in arguments and whining and shit. In fact the whole movie is made to look like the ’70s except that they have modern Coke bottles and McDonalds wrappers and shit. So it doesn’t take place in the ’70s, it just takes place in a world where everybody likes to dress up like they’re from a different era, like that dude from the Stray Cats.
In BROWN BUNNY you’re probaly supposed to feel sorry for him too, although in this one he loses sympathy right at the beginning when he convinces the young clerk at the corner market to drop everything and go to California with him, then ditches her while she’s packing. The poor girl has already abandoned her post at the family store and left a note to her aunt and uncle explaining why she decided to run off with a stranger. Now you gotta figure she has to explain herself without even getting to go on the trip.
The movie is basically a series of awkard encounters with women like this. It is probaly only a coincidence that the writer of the movie is also the actor who gets to make out with Cheryl Tiegs and get a blowjob from Chloe Sevigny. I’m sure he probaly wrote it figuring some other actor would play Bud but then there was some mix-up and at the last minute he had to fill in. Anyway, in between the encounters you mostly get driving shots with an occasional hotel stop. Then he combs his hair or lays around on a hotel bed in his tighty whiteys. There’s not alot of dialogue. The only real back and forth conversation is with Chloe at the end, and half of that she has to talk with his dick in her mouth. (A cinematic first I’m pretty sure, at least for an oscar nominee.)
At one point you’re watching an extreme closeup of Gallo as he’s driving, looking intense, his long bangs blowing around in his eyes. And it occurred to me, I mean just as one possible theory, that this motherfucker is pretty fond of himself.
The Asshole Chic aesthetic extends to the actual filmatism of the movie. Gallo’s character spends most of the movie being sensitive and mopey, so it’s the movie’s duty to be an asshole to the audience. The very first shot of the movie is faded and handheld, a motorcycle race as seen from the stands. At first it seems like kind of a cool shot, and then you realize that it is gonna show you the whole damn race. Like somebody’s expensive home movie. Even if it was your home movie, you would never go back and watch it. This guy actually put it in a movie released in theaters. At least half of the shots in the movie are like this, specifically designed to test your patience and taunt you. Picture a camera sitting on the dashboard of a car, filming the highway through a dirty windshield while a Gordon Lightfoot song plays. The whole Gordon Lightfoot song. That is alot of this movie.
He stops to get gas and it’s pretty suspenseful because you’re really not sure if he’s gonna squeegie the windshield or not. It turns out he doesn’t, because then the driving shots wouldn’t have all those bug splatters on them and it would really cut down alot on what makes the movie so interesting. In Roger Ebert’s famous review of the movie he talks about how at one point Bud pulls over and gets out of the van to change his jacket, and the audience applauded. That scene must’ve been cut out of this version though because I didn’t notice it. Not sure why he’d cut out a real INDIANA JONES type crowdpleaser like that.
A reasonable person, specifically me, could also argue that BROWN BUNNY has kind of an anti-porn style. You ever see that cool ’70s style movie poster they had, with the old fashioned XXX logo on it? I’d like to think some perv somewhere watched this really thinking it was an old porno. If so, that perv got Punk’d. It’s got this amateurish blown out ’70s look to it, and this greaseball goes around hitting on cute girls he never met and they are always into him. Every one of these scenes could lead to wah wahs and erotic moaning, but they don’t. It’s just one interuptus after another. At the end it finally turns into hardcore porn but as soon as he cums he calls her a whore and then rolls up into a fetal position and starts crying.
You know what it is, it’s a fictional porno you’d see a poster for in a movie, but somehow it’s crossed over into our world.
You might remember back when I reviewed LAST DAYS OF DISCO I maybe had sort of a thing for young Chloe Sevigny, in some people’s opinions. Of course I never figured I would see her doing hardcore sex, so, you know, Merry Christmas to me. On the other hand you gotta wonder how the poor gal got talked into doing this one. It’s not like he’s taking a risk. He gets one free blowjob (and you fucking know this prick insisted on lots of rehearsals) and you know, nobody’s gonna blame him. The double standard is in his favor. Or at least, it’s not gonna lower people’s opinions of him. Put it that way. But poor Chloe, in addition to having to perform the act and put it on Superbit DVD for all eternity, was putting her career and reputation on the line for a small and purposely annoying movie. I’m not sure what she was thinking but luckily she seems to have made it through. Since then she’s worked with Woody Allen, Jim Jarmusch and David Fincher. And not one hardcore sex scene was required.
I don’t think the blowjob is important to the story, but it is important to the movie. Because it’s the carrot at the end of the stick of the Brown Bunny. Everybody knows about The Blowjob and without its golden promise alot of people aren’t gonna sit through all this god damn driving. Without The Blowjob, we probaly never would’ve even heard of the movie. The same critics still would’ve hated it but they wouldn’t have been interested enough to make a big deal about it. Without The Blowjob all they can say is “It’s so boring! He keeps driving!” With The Blowjob, people want to listen.
I forget which review I read where it mentioned that all the critics would’ve walked out, but they kept watching just to find out how bad it would get. Yep, that’s the reason you kept watching. For informational purposes. Nothing to do with The Blowjob.
Oh, this was the– BROWN BUNNY was the one with The Blowjob? Yeah, you’re right, I knew there was some talk about a movie with that, I didn’t make the connection that it was– I mean, ha ha, I just wanted to find out how bad it would get.
Why the fuck would a guy lie in a movie review? You’re not on trial here. We don’t blame you. Be honest.
On DVD the carrot at the end of the stick adds a new dimension to the endurance test. Because now you don’t have to sit through the whole thing to “find out how bad it gets.” There’s even a handy chapter menu, you can skip to “Fidelity” and you’re just about there. But if you’re really tough, if you’re really disciplined, you can watch the entire movie in order without even pausing. And I got no way to prove this but I swear to you, with my right hand on the Bible and my left hand on a biography of Steve McQueen that somebody gave me but I haven’t read yet, that I actually passed the BROWN BUNNY gauntlet. I got all the way to the end in one sitting, without cheating. And it actually wasn’t nearly as hard as I expected. Of course I am a veteran of GARFIELD but still, BROWN BUNNY is better than advertised.
I’m really not gonna recommend the movie to anybody, not as art and not as porn. But I cannot tell a lie and personally I did not think THE BROWN BUNNY movie was all that bad. Sometimes egomaniacal assholes can make good movies, and this sort of in a way almost is one. It takes a unique approach, it stays completely commited to its goals, it has a blowjob scene at the end, etc. And seriously, it does come to a, uh, climax that makes some sense out of the rest of the movie, it doesn’t just fizzle out. THE BROWN BUNNY is an experience I will always remember. Well, mainly the part at the end, but still. I regret nothing.
Suggested alternate title: THE LONELIEST MOTOR BIKE RACER
Man, I didn’t expect that SIXTH SENSE style twist ending. But I gotta say it worked pretty good to tie the movie together. Of course, I got no idea why this dickhead didn’t do something when he saw those junkies raping his pregnant girlfriend. But overlooking that it sort of redeems what comes before. One of those movies where you can imagine it would have a different meaning if you watched it a second time, even though you wouldn’t watch it a second time. Anyway, another alternate title, considering the ending: HEAD OF THE DEAD. Think about it.
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.