The film is Richard Kelly’s sophomore film follow up to the highly successful Donnie Darko. Now like most indi filmmakers who have a successful first film, the follow up is usually always much bigger, both in terms of budget and concept and this film is no different. With an “interesting” cast of characters including Justin Timberlake, the Rock, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Sean William Scott and Mandy Moore, the film is definitely multi layered as it connects these parallel character story lines. Without giving away too much the film follows the Rock who is related to a presidential candidate during a very big election year, who goes missing and reemerges with porn star (Gellar) and has written a very important script which seems to have peaked everyone’s interest.
Now where I feel the film is successful seems to also be where I feel it fails. The film is at times too layered. And i mean this literally from all angles, it is a hybrid of the absurdist comedic sci-fi, action, political satire variety. He really does a great job tackling what seems to be every issue facing us today: our need for an alternative fuel source, our incredible desire to feed on all things pop culture, big brother, addiction, politics, the war in iraq, patriot act, marxism, young veterans, pornography, teen sex, our overwhelming news feeds which have become a crawl within a crawl within a split screen, religion, and (as in DD) the apocalypse and time travel. (Im sure i skipped a few)
Now while some are the main focus of the film (our need for alternative fuels, time travel and the apocalypse) they are all visibly present throughout the film. Now where it succeeds is in the writing, i think he really is one of the few filmmakers who would not only attempt to conquer such a daunting film but he does so without losing the viewer by actually delivering an entertaining film. And as was the case in DD, some of the scenes are just visually stunning. Also despite the big names, i felt the casting was actually surprisingly good, i actually liked the rock as the lead role.
But the film seems to be just too much, almost as if he purged himself of every single thought and emotion he has felt over the past few years and turned into a satire. And even as a satire it seems at times not funny enough to be considered a comedy though definitely absurdist at many points. As a viewer I wish that he would have either stripped it down somewhat (blasphemy! i know) or at least turned up the comedic factor (though i find myself laughing at some of the moments in retrospect)
Yet, despite all of this I did really like the film, it definitely intrigued me and had me desperately wanting a second viewing. As a writer i really did enjoy how he was able to fit all of this into one script as well as all of his social commentary on our current state and his depiction of the power an individual who would actually discover a “successful” alternative fuel source could possibly attain. (and i also loved seeing so many shots of venice beach and the sidewalk cafe) And though the film “bombed” as is the curse of the sophomore film, I am definitely anticipating how he will follow up this film.