Friday, August 20, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. The Hipsters - Buy It

Don't be fooled by the tacky previews with "pow" and "bang" that make you think this film is going to be a live-action comic book straining for emotion with a line like, "because I love her!" This film is more intelligent than it first seems. It's not to say there aren't some weaknesses, but as always: what doesn't? I know, I know, The Dark Knight (lies! I could name a few).

Scott Pilgrim is an adult/adolescent hipster in Toronto, Canada. He's in a band to sing about "life, to make you sad and stuff." In the beginning he's dating a high schooler, apparently he's still getting over an ex that broke his heart. As the story progresses he falls, instead, for some other girl and has to fight her crazy evil exes, which naturally involve Scott's coming back to haunt him as well.

A great strength of this film is the satire. Between Scott living across the street from where he grew up, in a band and without a job, and friends that say things like "the comic book was better than the movie" and "of course the first album was great, but not as good as the FIRST album." This was pretty genius. It's subtly sprinkled throughout the film and we gather some underlying pointed theme at these people and their absurdity. In fact, the blended references of late 80s early 90s video game systems and arcade games are an added mockery to this "retro" sub culture.

The satire is at the expense of the characters, however. None of the characters ring out as particularly lovable, which happens in plot-heavy or theme-heavy story lines (i.e. Cloverfield or The Last Kiss). Some reviewers have taken the feminist route, claiming that women are to be "obtained," though, ironically, it was the mostly-male cast of exes that were technically Ramona's. I guess you could flip it and say they would say, "she's mine," but really, that's more a social commentary than something about this particular film. What bothered me was the "because I love her," line, in both previews and in movie, but the difference was that in movie it was clear I wasn't supposed to like it. Or maybe I was, and then the movie wanted to say, "No, idiot!" Either way, the lesson the film takes instead is much greater and more important, and reveals the film wasn't about obtaining Ramona at all. At any rate, the weakness up to that point is that the characters are all very self-absorbed, selfish, whiny, conniving, bitchy, rude, pretentious assholes. The great part about this is what it says about the entire hipster movement: there's not a single redeemable element to your personalities. The weakness, of course, is that it's hard to attach to any character, not just female characters. Sorry there, feminists. Scott Pilgrim is just as much a douche as your female characters are wenches.

I feel the need to emphasize, however, that THIS WAS THE POINT. So though it was a weakness, it was also a great strength of the film. So in introducing a new rating system going worst to best: Trash It, Rent It, Buy It, Shelve It, Worship It, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World lands safely at a Buy It...for a moderate price. Don't go out and buy the "special edition" the Tuesday it's released for twenty-some bucks. Buy a used copy for about ten.

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