This Movie Is Bonkers.

I feel like I should be drinking more when I am writing this.  This is the kind of movie that black russians were made to accompany.  This is, hands down, one of the strangest and most insane movie watching experiences of my life, and I have watched The Room several times, Enter The Void several times, the entire Lynch filmography, and almost every one of the MST3K episodes ever made.  I am experienced in watching insane films.  This film may top that.

It’s The Rage is the name of the movie.  It stars (really, for real) Jeff Daniels, Joan Allen, David Schwimmer, Anna Paquin, Andre Braugher, Giovanni Ribisi, Gary Sinise, Josh Brolin, Bokeem Woodbine and Robert Forster.  It’s truly a who’s who of who is that guy, and where do I know him from.  The cast has some genuinely amazing actors, people who deeply commit to roles, and have had some amazing performances, and Ross from friends, who, I don’t know, acts?

It was apparently based on a play, and was directed by a director of a play, so maybe that is somewhere that I should cut them some slack.  And yet, I watched this movie stone cold sober, and felt like my brain was melting within my head and trying to escape trying to understand it.  Seriously.

Start at the Very Beginning

So, we open on opening credits.  Home video footage of people getting guns, and receiving guns, and then as the titles roll on, the film introduces newspaper clippings referring to guns being used in situations.  A man blacking out as he pulls the trigger.  Another man shooting his business partner.  Have you figured out what we’re looking for?

It’s the Rage is a movie with a message.  It thinks that it’s message is that guns are bad, but as we go further, I think that I can change your mind on that being the actual message and the real message being, please work with film directors.  Play adaptations are hard enough, but message movies with play adaptations are going to be tough.  Message movies require a commitment to telling a story so well that we are fully on board from minute one.  Movies like Traffic. Why am I not writing about Traffic?

As the message of the movie is pounded into your brain, we cut to a suburban house.  Joan Allen reaches over to check if her husband is there, hears a shot, and then two shots.  She goes downstairs and finds Jeff Daniels playing Warren Harding (no relation) standing over a body on the floor.  She does some quick detective work and sees that it is 1. his business partner, and 2. that Jeff Daniels seems pretty damn suspicious, and 3. Jeff Daniels definitely got up in the middle of the night to kill that guy.

Jeff Daniels and his lawyer, Andre Braugher are brought to the police station for questioning.  On the other side are Robert Forster who is the too old for this just about to retire cop and Bookeem Woodbine, the young hothead cop.  Robert Forster attempts to intimidate him into confessing.  Mr. Braugher, who is an amazing actor and I am deeply sad to see in this movie, does a great job selling his role as the bisexual son of a civil rights leader who was shot to death, but that’s for later.  Jeff Daniels is released because he was trying to protect his house, accuses his wife of cheating on him, and then goes home.

Andre Braugher goes to a grocery store where he runs into Anna Paquin, who is a poor street urchin who is dancing and stealing things.  She “flirts” with Braugher, who when she is caught stealing (once when I was five [Jesus, Jane’s Addiction, Matt? {You know what, screw you voice in my head, that’s a great song.}]), he vouches for her and pays for her stuff.  Anna Paquin is a decent actor, but she is ACTING in this MOVIE, and I have zero grasp of who she is supposed to be.  Is she underage?  Maybe?  Is she an addict?  Maybe?  Is she claiming that her brother has a gun and that he is police man? Yes.  Does he and is he? Yes and no?

Cut to Joan Allen and Jeff Daniels having dinner. Jeff Daniels talks about how he could have made money if he hadn’t murdered his business partner that day, but he was down at the police station answering questions because he is a psychopath.  Joan Allen gets him riled up by telling him that she fucked another man while getting him dinner, and tells him that she is going to leave him.  He threatens her by saying that she couldn’t leave if she wanted to, and if she did, he’d find her.

We then cut to David Schwimmer, silently waiting and crying as Andre Braugher gets home late.  You see, it turns out that the guy following the underage girl home is gay, which is supposed to be risque but does nothing for me.  David Schwimmer is pissed, and pulls a gun on Braugher, telling him that if he is late again, he is going to shoot him.  Pop quiz, hot shot, guess who shoots Braugher eventually. Ross also informs Braugher that he has gone off his meds, he’s bought him a gun, and that he’s stopped seeing his therapist.  Braugher picks up the pistol and they lovingly point it together and talk about how it makes them feel powerful.

To Review, Before This Gets Confusing

Jeff Daniels is Married to Joan Allen and Shot His Buisness Partner.

Andre Braugher is Dating David Schwimmer and into Anna Paquin.

Robert Forster is an almost retired cop, whose partner is Bookeem Woodbine and is investigating Jeff Daniels.

These are enough for a movie by themselves, right?  Well, guess who we haven’t gotten to yet.

Gary Sinise and Josh Brolin in, wait, what am I watching?

Gary Sinise is an “eccentric” “multi-millionaire” who owns a “compound” that looks like a legends of the hidden temple set re-purposed to be someone’s office with gigantic computer monitors everywhere.  He is in full on Lt. Dan meltdown mode in this movie, feeling like there is too much information coming in, and Josh Brolin is his hapless and put upon secretary who wants to make movies. I’ll say that again, Josh “No Country For Old Men” Brolin plays a weird secretary who wants to be a film director and is going to leave the service of the eccentric millionaire Sinise to direct films.

Since Brolin is leaving, Sinise directs him to find a replacement, which is convenient because Joan Allen wants to get out of her situation and Andre Braugher is also the lawyer of Sinise, so Joan Allen goes to join him on the compound and get herself either the worst haircut or worst wig I have ever seen.  I love Joan Allen, she’s great, and whatever the hell was going on with her in this was atrocious.

I don’t really know how to describe Gary Sinise in this movie.  He’s essentially the most insane of all possible people, and if you’ve read this far, you know that insanity is not uncommon in this universe. He creates an animated dog to play with on the copious screens that litter his office and are apparently linked to his voice and his thoughts somehow.  He is somehow connected to the internet, both in reality, and in that he was somehow responsible for some essential part of it.  He is rich, but out of touch, telling Joan Allen that all emails and voicemail are to be deleted.  I cannot tell if his character is supposed to be comic, or tragic, or both, or just impossible to tell.  The movie is off the rails at this point.

We also find out that Schwimmer goes shopping with Joan Allen, that Robert Forster is going to follow Jeff Daniels around, and that Josh Brolin’s character is changing his name from Tennel to Fennel.  No, I’m not making this up.

You Thought We Were Done, Didn’t You

Taking a little jaunt down “Two Weeks Later” we find all of our characters in new situations.  Andre and Anna have sex once, but not because she is a whore, but because she loves money. Brolin is working at a movie store, where he falls in love with Anna at first sight, mainly because her character name is Annabelle Lee.  Brolin recites the poem to her, and if you don’t remember the poem, it’s not a bright and happy poem, because Edgar Allen Poe wrote it.  She reciprocates by stealing stuff and flirting back?-ish.

And then we get to Sydney Lee.  Sindey Lee is played by Giovanni Ribisi as the incestuous, insanely overprotective, mentally ill, armed brother to Anna Paquin’s Annabelle Lee.  Another actor who you know, I am blown away by his presence in this movie.  He was in Saving Private Ryan.  In this movie, he is dressed like Michael Jackson and Sid Vicious had a child.  He comes into the movie at like the halfway point, far too late to introduce new central characters.  His introduction is being told that the video store clerk (Brolin) was hitting on his sister and that makes him very upset.  He threatens to use his piece on him if he doesn’t back off of her. Guess what eventually happens.

So, the stage is set, the players in their relationships, and now…

The movie goes off the rails.  It never really was on the rails, but at this point it loses rail cohesion entirely.

Joan Allen is settling into her new situation, reading a bunch and deleting emails, but Braugher shows up and tells Sinise that he’s being sued for cutting off all communication and that he needs to manage his empire.  Braugher ends up coming home late several times, telling Schwimmer that he is working on a case.  Daniels sits at home and thinks about redecorating his room.  Brolin works at his video store, meets Schwimmer and Daniels, as they watch Annabelle Lee, who is described as 15 going on 45.  Daniels slams Pulp Fiction (never a good way to get on my side, movie), and Schwimmer tells Brolin that he thinks that Braugher is cheating on him. Sinise and Allen grow closer, working together while his company falls apart, but he becomes unhinged when information starts leaking back in.  They have a dinner where he uses chopsticks to eat pasta, in parallel structure with the dinner with her husband.  It’s indicated that he is falling for her.

Braugher shoots Paquin in a struggle for Chechov’s… what is that thing called?  You introduce it at the beginning of the story and everyone knows that it has to go off, or the prop doesn’t make sense.  What is that thing called.  I forgot.  Well, anyway, Paquin dies.  Braugher calls Daniels to help clean it up. Daniels is followed by Forster and Woodbine to a bar, where they run into Ribisi, who threatens to shoot the two cops, walks over, and everyone looks like they are going to draw.  Ribisi leaves the bar.

Paquin’s body is discovered.  Braugher goes home, Chris shoots him, and then calls his therapist.  Ribisi goes to the video store and executes Brolin because he thinks he killed his sister. Sinise grabs a gun from inside his desk and shoots his monitors with it. Forster is handed a phone call by Schwimmer, at the active crime scene where Braugher has just been killed, from Daniels in which he confesses to shooting his partner.  Woodbine kills Sydney for killing Ribisi. Schwimmer moves to Nevada after his jail time so he can buy a gun. Daniels goes to jail and is visited by Allen, who is selling the house, which makes Daniels mad.

I am good at tracking what happens in movies.  I took no notes, and I wrote all of that by memory.  This movie had me confused, completely at odds with knowing anything, and deeply uncomfortable with what was going on. I am making none of that up.  NONE OF IT. I LIKE MOVIES, AND THIS MOVIE BROKE ME.

What’s the Lesson?

First off, message movies are hard, so if you’re going to do it, please, do it right.

Secondably, if you’re going to do an ensemble cast of hard hitting stars, make sure you get the tone right from frame one.  You cannot do five different tones.  Some of it is darkly comic, some of it is just comic, some of it is drama, some of it is thriller, and some of it is message movie.  You know how in The Thing you don’t have an opening musical number? That makes sense right?  If you opened with a big musical number, you expect a musical.  If you’re good enough to make a musical number work in the middle of your film (500 Days of Summer, sort of), don’t have it in the middle of the dramatic part, have it in the comedy fun parts.

Third of all, I need other people to see this movie.  I need it, because it has offically taken me 2037 words as of this point to deal with just the bare bones plot and character.  I haven’t talked about the crane shot in and crane shot out, to bookend the film, the fact that Sinise was discovered living under a viaduct and put into a mental institution by Allen, a person who is not his relative or has any relationship, and Allen literally discovered him living under a viaduct, which is a movie I want to see now.  I need people to see it because it’s The Room levels of insane.  It doesn’t make sense.  I cannot tell what it was trying to be.  I need your help.  Please, it’s cold and alone in this madness and only others joining me can free me.

Fourth, at the Milan International Film Festival, this movie got the Audience Award, Best Acting for Gary Sinise, Best Director, Best Editing, Best Film, Best Music and Best Screenwriting.  Really.  Like, really really. In the year 2000, in Milan, there was a gigantic mass delusion that this movie was good in some way.  I cannot cope with this.  I think that we might need to remove Milan from our maps, because there is something wrong there.  Something deeply unsettling lives in that city, somewhere deep down, and in 2000, they dug too deep.

Fifth, this movie is fucking bananas.  I am still blown away.  It’s been days.  It will never leave me.  What. On. Earth. Was. That?  I’m going to go watch Crank until my eyes bleed.

Editors Note:

This movie is still plaguing my brain.  I spend a good fifteen minutes a day trying to come to terms with this movie.  If you value my sanity, please, reach out to @HDTGM and @RedLetterMedia, and get someone else to see this movie.  If you can get me in touch with the producers and directors, or actors, please, tell me how.  If I can somehow find closure with this movie, I would appreciate it.

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