DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: You Might As Well Live

Friday 28 August 2009

You Might As Well Live

You Might As Well Live (2009) dir. Simon Ennis
Starring: Joshua Peace, Michael Madsen, Stephen McHattie, Greg Bryk, Clark Johnson


Guest review by Reece Crothers

Some films are just destined to become cult classics. I'm putting my money on Simon Ennis' hilarious "You Might As Well Live" to join the rank and file of other Canadian comedies to achieve that status, from "Strange Brew" and "Highway 61" through "Trailer Park Boys" and "FUBAR", the latter of which is all the more appropriate here as that film's director, Michael Dowse serves as executive producer.

It all begins when our hero Robert R. Mutt is deemed "too happy" to remain in the care of the mental institution that has been his recent home. He doesn't want to leave, and feels he isn't ready for the outside world. This narrative jumping off point has been used before, whether for comedy in Wes Anderson's "Bottle Rocket" or for drama in Louis Malle's "The Fire Within", but even if we start from a familiar place, where we end up and how we get there is something you've never seen quite like this. "You proved to me that you're a real somebody, " his friend, the mental asylum orderly, tells Mutt. "Now, you gotta go out there and prove it to everybody else."

Dowse is not the only hero of Canuck cinema along for the ride. The list of local talent is staggering: the reunion of Stephen McHattie and Greg Bryk following harrowing turns in Sir David Cronenberg's (he's Sir David to me) "History Of Violence"; Liane Balaban of "New Waterford Girl" fame; Clark Johnson of "Nurse. Fighter. Boy", who kicked ass both in front of and behind the camera on HBO's The Wire; "Slings & Arrows" alum Martha Burns; honorary Canadian Julian Richings, one of the great faces in movies; and Tony Nappo, who after years of solid supporting work playing baddies and bit players (Four Brothers, Incredible Hulk) is really due for some leading man roles. Bryk and Johnson are particular standouts, lending warmth and compassion to characters that, in a lesser film, might have been cartoon caricatures, but this is really true of the entire cast. Non-canadian (but I won't hold it against him) Michael Madsen, who usually shows up in roles you know he took for the paycheck when Tarantino has nothing for him to do, finally gets to play a nice guy, and he's terrific here as Mutt's hero and mentor, Clinton Manitoba.

All of that talent and I haven't even mentioned the main reason to see this movie: the wonderfully goofy and surprisingly heartfelt performance of lead actor and co-writer (with Ennis) Josh Peace as Robert R. Mutt. The actor so totally immerses himself in his character that I found myself adding him as a friend on facebook before realizing he was fictional (and you should to, his facebook video is also hilarious). Peace's Mutt is so sweet, so genuine and heartbreakingly funny that it's easy to overlook the film's occasional lapses in good taste. "Irreverent" is a word you will likely hear often in describing this film's sense of humour.

When Billy Wilder wrote the infamous Chicago St. Valentine's Day massacre into the set-up for "Some Like It Hot", he was taken to task by studio execs who cautioned that murder won't play in a comedy. He proved them wrong. I wonder what those same execs would have thought about the constant threat of chemical castration our hero faces from McHattie as Mutt's neighbour, the circus clown who lives across the street and who, in one of those lapses in good taste, has targeted our protagonist as patsy for child pornography his wife has uncovered on the home computer. Among the myriad of bizarre comic entanglements Mutt encounters on his quest to prove he is "a real somebody" are, his uncle's exploitation of his over-sexed, would-be, tween pop star sister; his comatose mother; a TV weatherman who advises Mutt to "grab adversity by its ears and fuck it in the face". "Everybody in this town hates me" Mutt cries "they treat me like I'm a turd". Strangers drive by screaming "Douchebag" at him. But Mutt is an eternal optimist. He might want to throw himself off a bridge every once in a while but he wears goggles in case there's something neat to see at the bottom of the lake. It is this goofy, unflappability that gives Mutt, and the film, its charm. There may be a few cheap shots here and there, but more importantly there are laughs, a whole lot of 'em, and most of them of the laugh out loud variety. In the end the film also has a heart as big as its hero. Robert R. Mutt wants to be your friend. You might as well give him a shot.

"You Might As Well Live" opens in theatres today in Canada from E1 Entertainment

1 comment :

Desi said...

"following harrowing turns in Sir David Cronenberg's (he's Sir David to me)"

*giggles* Personally I call him "God". It seems appropriate.