Thursday, June 10, 2010
What's Wrong with "Get Him to the Greek"
"Get Him to the Greek" could have been a classic comedy. Halfway through I was still laughing unstoppably, and so were my parents. It's a novel and potent concept for a film. Rock stars, fame, and the crumbling record companies are compelling topics that have not yet been delved upon on film recently, besides maybe "Control" and "Anvil." But never in such a huge Hollywood film. Apatow! Diddy! Krugman! (?). Now finally here was a movie that was doing so in the most brutal, albeit hilarious, depiction I have seen since "Spinal Tap." I am intensely interested in the music business- I've followed every career move and interview of my favorite band, The Killers, for 6 years. I've similarly "studied" many other musicians and celebrities, although not quite as intensively. But I know a thing or two about the topic, and watching the first half of "Get Him to the Greek" was therefore absolutely delightful. The nods at executives making their stars feel invincible, the nerdy nothingness that those who organize their lives really are, the incomprehensible mindset of those who know that millions admire their every gesture. GREAT actors. Damn, almost the whole cast was amazing and spot-on. It was all there, and it was delightful for a music biz nerd like me.
But, then, something changed. And everything went downhill. And I left the theater frustrated and muttering about what a shame it was that the whole second half destroyed what could have been a milestone film. If this film had reached its potential, it could have been hugely successful, would have led to copycats... maybe would have revived rock music. Who knows. Yes I'm exaggerating, but then the horrendous turn this film took really left me dumbfounded. Before I keep babbling about nothing, I'll let you know just the major points that pissed me off about "Greek." In fact, you can apply many of these to most recent films graced with the Judd Apatow label. "Anchorman,""40 year-old Virgin", "Superbad" were instant classics, "Knocked Up" also good. "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" was really funny. Then, "Pineapple Express" funny but overindulgent and lost. "Walk Hard," "Funny People," "Year One" I haven't seen, but from what I hear I should continue avoiding them. Apatow has been going downhill, while films such as "The Hangover" with the same exact humor as "40 y/o Virgin" have grabbed that prized instant classic designation. Why? Maybe some of the problems with "Get Him to the Greek" will help you understand. And maybe they'll teach Judd a lesson or two about how to keep his entourage in check. Dude, I watched "Freaks and Geeks" last month. That shit was amazing. You know quality. Don't lose it in the face of success. Now moving on. The trouble with "Get Him to the Greek." Obviously spoilers ahead:
1. I'll start by saying that I really did love the first half or even 3/4. A lot. "African Child," the video and promo and backlash and all. The fictional ups and downs of Aldous and his wife's careers. Aldous' talk with Jackie in the phone- when asked who was with him, he said "just an affable lil' twit," referring to Aaron. True to celeb life and funny. I applaud. Diddy was #1. Hi-la-rious. Holy shit he blew me away. How can he be so successful AND be so funny. It's crazy. He really hit a home run with literally all of his lines. Jonah Hill was really funny and perfectly understated. Russell Brand was perfection. I am already biased because I love him and have read My Booky Wook and I think he is a comic genius, but he really was flawless in his film. Yes the character is practically him, but still. He was just really, really fucking good and funny. I loved that Elizabeth Moss was cast as Aaron's girlfriend. She is one of my favs on Mad Men and she managed to be funny even with some of the bland lines she was given (perhaps you can already guess what one of my problems with the film is). The Jeffrey and rubbing wall fur. The moment when Aldous stuck the adrenaline syringe in Aaron (Jonah Hill) and the latter's eyes went crazy with his face filling the screen- I don't think I've laughed that hard in a few good weeks. But then rapidly, suddenly I and the rest of the audience stopped laughing mere seconds after this moment. I don't remember what happened, but the attention was taken away from this climactic hilarity scene. It was a really queer moment and I felt gipped. I wanted endless milking of that laughing a la "The Hangover." Why stop when you just had the audience in the palm of your hand? This wasn't an artistic, let's-not-just-do-what's-expected-of-us kind of decision. There was no good logical reason behind it. Before this moment the film was already showing signs of falling apart, but after it everything completely tumbled. And for no good reason. It's really a shame.
2. Now for the criticism. In no particular order. The decision to bring the story to Las Vegas. It made no sense. How could Aldous change the flight so quickly, and how couldn't Aaron stop him from doing it? If it was so very important for his career to bring him to L.A. I get and appreciate and support the fact that comedies take crazy unrealistic turns for the laughs, but this turn wasn't particularly funny. It slowed the film down. Momentum was building up to the moment they return to L.A., and suddenly it was cut off, because Aldous wanted to see his dad from a sudden bit of advice dished by the ever wise Aaron? Bleh. Not good enough, sorry buddy (writer). Why couldn't their flight have had to take a sudden stop in LV? They had to take a road trip and stopped in LV? I don't know, anything else that was less an abrupt and slightly annoying/baffling detour, more a crazy twist that still kept the momentum going.
3. Aldous' dad. Terrible actor for the part. Not funny at all. Sucked the life out of every exchange that involved him in the Vegas scenes. Even Russel couldn't save it. Sorry, the guy just wasn't right. He contributed a hell of a lot to the film's slow-down. When Aldous and father were talking about their issues in a booth at the Rat Pack club, I started fidgeting and rolling my eyes. This was only the beginning of my reactions. I'm just being honest.he should have been an extreme sort of character. Hilarious, strange. Instead he was just a bore and a terrible, terrible person one had absolutely no sympathy for.
4. Sentimentality. This single-handedly killed the film. Why? WHY? Was there sentimentality in The Hangover? No. Was the film awesome? Yes. Coincidence? I don't think so. Sentimental boo hoo Aldous' parents are terrible and Aaron is such a caring perfect specimen of the human race and Aldous performing with his broken arm is so amazing etc etc in a crazy comedy film do not belongeth. Either this is a drama or a comedy. You can't do both. Perhaps it's possible to find a middle ground, but this film proved that it's extremely difficult- even nearly impossible- to pull that off. And starting the whole first half of the film without a trace of the sentimental misty-eyed cheesiness, before blasting a whole shitload of the stuff at you during the last fifth, is a disgusting thing to do to your viewers. We're not idiots. We're not a combination of a cross-section. perhaps some don't expect much of you, and so won't think much of the stupid turn. But real fans came in there. people whose expectations built throughout the film. Why shit in their faces? Why? Did some idiot producer say adding a cheesy happy message (or ten of them, why not) would save the film? add $10 million more to the gross? Perhaps, but you know what? You also lost $500 million from future DVD and paraphernalia and re-release money. Oh, and you lost cult classic status. But it was worth the $10 mil, right? Sorry, you can't cut off the last 45 minutes of a film and put that up for consideration for classic status. If a big chunk of a film sucks, the film just isn't up to par with the bests. Too bad. Guess you should think twice about listening to those all-knowing producers, eh?
5. Now for a problem less all-encompassing but still important, to me at least. Someone with a big role in creating this film knew very little about real, awesome rock concerts. And it's a crying shame because it made the film about 10% less effective. This was most glaringly clear at the end of the film in the concert I am sure the filmmakers intended to be a OMFG AWESOMENESS ending glorious rock concert, but instead came off as an indulgent boring useless piece of film that should have been cut to no more than two minute, if even that, at its state. First of all, Aldous constantly looking back at Aaron to smile and be like "dude how awesome!!111!"? No. Just no. Wouldn't happen, shouldn't happen. Stupid stupid stupid and unnecessary. We know they're happy, give it a fucking rest already. The audience members at the Greek? Aw hell naw man. All of the supposedly die-hard sold out crowd in the GA section gave me second-hand embarrassment. Every floor audience member stood five feet from the other, i kid you not. Dude. This is coming from a diehard Killers fan- when you go see your favorite band and are lucky enough to have floor spots, you jam to the front as closely as you possibly can to the stage. This means you learn to be very cozy with your neighbors. I'm sure the extras cost a bunch ($100 a day each adds up), but spreading them out like that was terrible. It was instantly obvious, at least to me, and I'm sure equally so in a subconscious way to everyone else. Not to mention, every time the extras waved their hands and fist pumped and clapped with fake smiles, they looked like the fakest bunch of posers I have ever seen. Basically lamest concert ever. What the filmmakers really should have done was film a real band's audience at a real Greek Theater concert. They could figure out releases and all of that- no one minds being in the audience in a film. Finaly, Aaron was backstage watching Aldous perform and exchanging the aforementioned buddy-buddy exchanged of euphoria. But when he was leaving in his great "yesss I succeeded" moment, he walked through the audience. Uh, what? Since when do you have to walk through the audience to exit from the stage? I'm sure the filmmakers thought this was extra exciting to see him walk through extatic people with a satisfied smile. And I'm also sure I would easily overlook this detail if the film hadn't unfolded as it had. But as it were, I was so disappointed and pissed off by this point this this just stirred the pot even further. I literally seethed and just thought, WTF. WHO MADE THIS STUPID DECISION.
7. too long
8.feeding lessons to audience- we should be allowed to figure it out on own instead of spoon-feeding
9. flashes of news stories and youtube vids at beginning- too much
bazillion famous actors etc at beginning- just feels like overindulgent and bloated now. showing off big budget. keep it small and real, much more preferable.