Southland Tales…A Wave of Mutilation

southland talesBy: Grainne Rhuad

“This is how the world ends” is how this movie begins and we are reminded of it throughout the movie…for those of us that thought a movie with a higher than normal Saturday Night Live alum cast and Sarah Michelle Gellar was cause for a big splif  before watching.

While I generally would not admit to enjoying, never mind recommending a movie that includes both Justin Timberlake and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.  In this case I was taken off guard and surprised.

I happened upon this movie during my summer long recuperation.  I had already passed it up several times based on the synopsis offered by Cinemax, but was running out of viewing options that day and figured what the heck.

What I got was a diamond in the rough.

Set in an alternate post nuclear future; Southern California is presented as sort of a City-State.  The government, of course is the root of all evil and Hollywood, well hasn’t changed much.  Pumping out movies that support the status quo and canoodling with the political big-wigs.

At the center of the plot is a race to find a new way to produce energy, which a scientist played by Wallace Shawn…I know “IN-CON-CIEVE-ABLE!!” has just about figured out.

However Venice Beach has become a hotspot for a radical neo-Marxist terrorist group run by Saturday Night Live Alumni Nora Dunn, in a highly clichéd Lesbian Radical character.   In fact much of this movie is highly clichéd and it is for that reason I think it works.

This movie directed by Donnie Darko’s acclaimed Director Richard Kelly embodies the type of off the scale Cheeze that somehow contains a very real message.   It reminds me a bit of Idiocracy.  Ridiculousness for the sake of social commentary.

It is the jagged turns and Cheeze that garnered this movie a lot of downturned thumbs.  But I’m no snobby critic.  I love Cheeze in movies and sometimes, this being one of them, Cheeze is the binding ingredient that makes the whole plot work.

Dwayne Johnson did a stellar job playing a confused and out of it movie star, it almost seemed as if he didn’t have to stretch much…hmmm.  But it is the supporting cast that makes this movie enjoyable.  Keep an eye out for John Larroquette who delivers quite nicely and even Janeane Garofalo makes a cameo which I think is kinda like a subversive thumbs up.

Ultimately what we end up looking at is a very realistic scenario where science and religion are intermeshed and the strings are being pulled by our IN-CON-CIEVE-ABLE scientist, the aforementioned Wallace Shawn who of course wants to bring to pass the prophecies of the Book of Revelations.

When you are able to pull back the layers of Divas played by the likes of Mandy Moore and Porn Stars played by Sarah Michelle Gellar; and provided you can get past the lazy monologues of Justin Timberlake who does nothing besides sit beside a gun off the coast of Malibu spouting lines from the Book of Revelations and lip sink to “The Killers “; what you are left with at the core is frighteningly close to our current American Climate.  Complete with Fashion Shows for Politics and Terrorist Cells made up of our neighbors.

Intentionally written and captiolizing on post 9/11 sentiments, what Southland Tales Achieves is a sort of subliminal education in “The World As It Is.”

11 Comments on “Southland Tales…A Wave of Mutilation”

  1. Normally I don’t do cheezy flicks, but I find that (every now and then) a certain “cheeze” factor makes for great satire and self-referencial humor. I think I’ll check it out next time I’m at the video store.

  2. Mitchell, not having seen the sequal to Donnie Darko (based solely on the un-plausable back story) I can’t say whether or not it will make people appreciate it more. It did get a lot of down-turned thumbs and I can see why, people probably expected it to be darker and more psychologically rich, which it is not. It is a piece of treasure at the bottom of a captain crunch box. A bouncy ball which you will not fully appreciate until it gives your neighbor a black eye…that sort of thing.

  3. As someone who slurps up sci-fi as genre of preference the way some people hit all the true romance heart bleeders, action flicks. or fantasy, i felt a necessary obligation toward watching Southland Tales. It was, in many ways, far more refreshing than the glut of natural catastrophe destroys life as we know it, but a hero comes to save us all, dereliction of meteors, instant ice freeze and internal combustion calamities that have been decorating recent sci-fi releases; all with the same basic plot, just a different background scenario. The hectic pace seemed to scoop up L.A. with all its mad hatter trend-setting, dining dolls and guys floating with untouchable leisure above the misery of dumpster diving and desperate one last parties before the numbing consequences of the morning after. The cheese, of course, came from the impossible heroics that all the fast action movie industry has taken a fetish for indulging in, relying more on scintillation than a reality controlled resolution to conflict. It probably reflects the extent of human ego. Consciously, we know we’re on a destructive path into our own oblivion, yet we wish to think that individually, we are only victims helplessly ensnared in circumstances. Somebody will be strong enough, powerful enough, determined enough, to alter the path. Personally, i think a little more imagination needs to go into the crafting of good sci-fi. The movie started out very good. It tumbled into mediocrity when it could no longer resist taking a possible future scenario and turning it into a shoot ’em up action flick.

  4. Karla, I think it was intentional the lack of crafting, in this movie. Almost a snubbed nose at the Movie-going masses, in effect saying if what Hollywood wants is lazy writing I shall write layers of it until like the Princess and the Pea only those who can will feel the nudge. With mediocrity turned into the intention it becomes as I said, a diamond in the rough that one is left to find and recognize.

  5. Southland Tales is ridiculous for the sake of social commentary? I got all the references but I never quite understood the relevance of said commentary beyond the cliches Kelly “intentionally” created. The movie was Family Guy-ish in the way it dropped names and ideas without any particular insight or criticism. The movie was an experiment in incongruity. Bizarre cameos, surreal dialog and a self-consciously convoluted plot that felt like daycare punishment for hyperactive children. I think it’s great that you’re complementing Wallace Shawn for his performance in a different film, BTW. I guess I can believe that Southland Tales is a trauma film, that is, a horrifying example of the effects of 9/11 on a talented filmmaker. And as I said, I’m not telling people to avoid seeing Southland Tales. Please see it, as experiencing its awfulness will make you a more complete person.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.