Monday, September 28, 2009

Movie with Abe: Brief Interview With Hideous Men

Sporadic Hints of Greatness from Two Very Different Men

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men
Directed by John Krasinski
Released September 25, 2009

As if the title weren’t intriguing enough, the match-up between the author of the original material and the man who adapted it for the screen is even more flabbergasting. The late David Foster Wallace wrote a collection of short stories in 1999 that examined the male psyche through off-putting characteristics of interview subjects. Actor John Krasinski, best known for his portrayal of sarcastic cubicle-dweller Jim Halpert on “The Office,” stepped behind the camera to write and direct his first feature film. The film serves both as a fitting tribute to the life and work of a great author and the turning of a new creative page for one industry player.

The most significant liberty taken by Krasinski in his reworking of Foster’s source material is the addition of a central character to anchor the story. The study is conducted by an unnamed, unseen interviewer on the page, but in the film, graduate student Sara (Julianne Nicholson) exists to make the story more relatable. Krasinski isn’t set on making the story feel too normalized or comfortable – characters still turn and address the screen and pop out as if they’re narrating the story. The movie’s not explicitly about Sara, she’s simply there to ask questions and respond to these males so desperate to vent about their bizarre urges and untraditional desires. Sara represents the audience; she’s there to take it in and analyze. Viewers can feel like they’re allowed to feel a certain way about the events on screen by picking up on the subtle visual cues on Sara’s face.

Recognizable actors, including Christopher Meloni (“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”) and Dominic Cooper (“Mamma Mia”), parade in as Sara’s interview subjects, as if to imply that this isn’t merely a picture of particularly perverse or friendless men, but instead the everyman who could be anyone. The point is that these men aren’t necessarily physically unattractive (though some certainly are), instead that the way they visualize and objectify women turns them into despicable creatures. Only one interview, an especially moving scene in itself, strays from the film’s focus on gender interaction and depicts a man’s relation to his father’s job and the way it influenced the way he lives his life. Clearly this study is incomplete and there’s more to be gleaned from the unfettered ranting of men determined to share their inner thoughts than relates only to their sexual proclivity. Krasinski’s film runs a mere 80 minutes. This is more of a fleeting peek into the male psyche, but then again, that’s exactly what the title promises.

Following his dramatic performance in June’s “Away We Go,” Krasinski continues to prove that he’s capable of more than just indicative stares at a still camera. Here he utilizes a bare interview room to force his characters to truly open up and say what they really mean rather than retort smartly. While it’s hardly conclusive, it’s a fascinating look into the world of the unspoken that’s alternately hilarious and incredibly moving. Krasinski opts to place himself in the latter category as Sara’s ex-boyfriend, and has one stunning scene where he passionately recounts what led him to have an affair. Interspersed with the rest of the scattered interviews and midway through the film’s meditation on what should be perceived as acceptable and unacceptable, it’s the hint of a breakthrough. The film is finally getting somewhere, reaching some newfound thesis on what makes male the way they are. And then just like that, it’s over. There’s no reason these interviews needed to be so brief. A longer look could have given even more insight into a subject that’s so evidently interesting and a film that gets so frustratingly close to a real, true revelation.


No comments: