It’s not often that we find a film which starts with a person who’s about to hang themselves on a deserted island. Less frequent still are those which follow it up with a fart joke montage. This is such a film.
We start with Hank (Paul Dano) stuck on an island, by himself. He looks to be in poor condition, suffering from exposure to the elements, dehydration, hunger, and depression. As he’s about to yield himself to the mercy of the rope he notices a person who washed up. After he slips and damn-near succeeds in his now-aborted suicide attempt (rope breaks, he survives, watch the trailer), he races to the person (Manny, played by Daniel Radcliffe) only to find out that he is dead. He attempts to resuscitate the person with no success.
Despite his unsuccessful resuscitation attempt, Hank finds Manny useful in a number of ways, most of which I couldn’t begin to do justice to here. I will say that the fart joke is a common theme throughout, they were really committed to that.
The acting in this film was amazing. Daniel Radcliffe pulls off “dead,” and in-so-doing really caused me to spend some time thinking about what a challenge actually playing dead would really be. His character, Manny has a lot of experiences which Radcliffe really does well.
Hank is played by Paul Dano, who I never really paid that much attention to in the past but now is on my list of actors I follow. While some of the plot points and character development for Hank were cliché – we get it, you’re a smart, lonely and shy person; get over yourself Hank! – the delivery was incredible. You don’t expect to find sexual tension in a film with a man stranded on a deserted island and his best buddy corpse, but here it is and it was pretty good.
While I want to say that Sarah (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is a tired love interest, she really played an interesting part near the end where the motivation of her character is to be profoundly creeped out and disturbed. She did that well, just as she did in 10 Cloverfield Lane (which I still totally need to review, though I watched it and so should you).
This film had one weak point: the ending. Everything up until the ending was amazing: the acting, the plot (minus cliché shy loser character), the photography, the sound, the music – I’ll get to the music in a moment! – and even the incredible lighting effects they had in the aquatic scenes… and then they had to destroy it with a unsatisfying ending.
I will not tell you the ending of this film, it’s worth watching to see the ending, and you won’t understand what I mean about how unsatisfying it is until you’ve seen the full epic. I will help you imagine it though.
Do you remember Big Fish? Do you remember the endearing scene at the end where all of the people who were in the father’s stories showed up to send him off? Well, it kinda seems like they tried to do that, except instead of fanciful characters from stories, it’s a smattering of awkward characters vaguely referenced from earlier in the film. While they’re going for an endearing finale, it falls flat and even has a smattering of child endangerment. It’s not great.
One thing that this film really excelled at was music. Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe themselves perform a lot of the music in the film, and it’s all quite well done. I know that many folks don’t always focus that much on the soundtrack, but you’ll miss out on this film if you do not. I can’t wait to go to work tomorrow to see if I can find this soundtrack on Spotify or iTunes.
All-in-all this is an excellent movie. They won Sundance, and they really just hit it out of the park. I really enjoyed this film, and the fact that this film could be poorly summarized to being a 97 minute fart joke adds to that enjoyment.
I found the music on Spotify, I encourage you to check it out. It’s pretty sweet.