Saturday, November 4, 2017

Movie with Abe: The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards

The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards
Various Directors
Released October 27, 2017

In order to create a successful film made up of multiple vignettes, it’s crucial to establish an overarching theme. There may not be a particular order to the segments, but they should build on one another so that they contribute to something greater that ties the whole film together. That’s not an easy task, especially when different directors are helming each installment. In some cases, the result is a mildly entertaining if totally directionless collection of unconnected thoughts put to paper and brought to life on screen.

This film contains seven vignettes, each of which has a starkly different focus. Memories of a murderous father and a haunting hunting grip, being bullied as a child with a sick father at home, adult sisters who have managed not to make their parents too proud, a maid with aspirations of greater things, a man whose ex-girlfriend has a new baby, an invented story about a sexual experience, and an accidental death taken very unseriously make up the segments of this self-described film that “explores the difference between fantasy and reality, memory and history, and the joy and agony of the human condition.”

It’s not an easy task to find commonalities among the seven tales told in this film aside from the fact that they’re all based on short stories from Robert Boswell’s book of the same name. Tonally, they’re diverse, with a shift from the more dramatic and bleak to slightly more comic but still dark and uninviting. Greater truths and realizations about things such as the human condition don’t really present themselves, especially not as stacked from start to finish. In contrast with something like “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men” or “30 Beats,” two imperfect but intriguing films of similar structure, this one fails to present a compelling argument for its existence.

From these seven segments, it’s hard to find a truly involving one, but the talent on display here suggests a far better product. Film stars Natalie Portman, Kate Mara, Kristen Wiig, and James Franco are the biggest names, though a slew of TV faces, including Amber Tamblyn from “Joan of Arcadia,” Abigail Spencer from “Rectify,” Rico Rodriguez from “Modern Family,” Jim Parrack from “True Blood,” Keir Gilchrist from “Atypical,” and Tyler Labine from “Reaper,” also appear. What convinced them to join this project is a mystery, and unfortunately none of them manage to enhance its effectiveness. This could have been interesting, but the lack of a connective tissue or a memorable installment makes it very much worth forgetting.


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