Movies That Make You Go ‘WTF’: Southland Tales

If you think Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko made you go WTF, watch his newest movie Southland Tales.

It came out late last year and only got about $350K worldwide at the box office, failing completely when you take into consideration that it was budgeted at around 15 million dollars.

When I first decided to watch it, I noticed right away the wide range in the cast. The Rock, Sean Williams Scott, Mandy Moore, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Justin Temberlake, Jon Lovitz, Cheri Oteri, Kevin Smith are probably the most noticeable names, to ages 20-35 at least.

The actor/actress choice is defiantly an enticing part of the movie for me, and overall I think they did fine with their characters. At some times the actor’s stereotypical image will overpower what they are trying to portray, but in the end I was left believing their roles.

Some of the weirder rolls:

  • Stifler playing a dramatic roll with no jokes (?)
  • Cheri Oteri playing a hard nose activist (?)
  • Justin Temberlake playing an army war vet (?!)
  • Jon Lovitz playing a murderous dirty cop (!!)
  • Kevin Smith playing a legless old man that is a war vet (?!?!?!)

The arching theme of the movie in my opinion revolves around what the feelings that are portrayed by the main characters’ uncertainty towards what is real and actually happening. The movie is a satirical look on how the world could end up being, and is told in the form of a black comedy. If I had to come up with a log line for it, a summary the plot of a movie in one sentence (if that’s even possible for this), it would be:

“An action star with amnesia and two twin souls are caught between big brother government and underground radical activists.”

The elements of the storylines in one perspective highlight all the make-ups of our current society in a cynical, satirical and overly dramatic way.

Themes include:

Terrorism, war, sex, religion, allusions to literary work, cable news glorification of current events, drugs, violence, police corruption, big brother government, pop culture, porn, presidential elections, new energy sources, underground political movements and even energy drinks.

See what I mean when I say it is a total WTF-fest? It doesn’t mean that I think it is a bad movie, it just means it’s a cluster F of like 10,000 things going on at once. While watching it, I could tell what Kelly was trying to do with it, but sadly the movie comes out as incomplete, confusing and baseless despite its 2 hour and 20 minute length.

It’s completely understandable for a futuristic movie to contain substance that involves overly exaggerated situations that the writer is trying to portray, but in the end the density level of this movie is very thick, which contributes to its confusing nature.

I really love the cinematography though. As I watched, I was amazed by how the camera movements and pacing attribute to the beauty of the movie. There are some scenes that draw the viewer into the world because they are just so gorgeous to watch. Though, at the same time, the movie is almost scary to watch because it portrays the radical outcome of all the current events in our world.

The set up for the movie includes a nuclear bomb going off in El Paso and Abilene, Texas. From that, the government sets up an institution that is spawned from the ‘PATRIOT-Act.’ This institution is portrayed very much like Orwell’s 1984 big brother government. It is set in an election year and a new underground movement that classify themselves as Neo-Marxists try to cripple the government’s grasp on the country. In addition, the draft has been reinstated because the war in Iraq has expanded into other countries, including US soil where the country now has guards monitoring the city on lookout posts; Justin Timberlake plays one of the guards as he narrates the story from his symbolic outpost 30-40 feet above the city.

As expressed and now obvious enough, the movie is a constant WTF-fest that will only be tolerable to some people if they notice what the director/writer is trying to do. It’s like those books you had to read in high school with long winded sentences that make no damn sense. I could probably give it two ratings: one for casual watchers and one for people watching for stylistics. In the end, I give it a 4/10 for casual people watching because of its smilingly-incoherent nature that it is written in.

For the styling, execution and visuals, it feels like a whole other movie and thus is more around a 7.5/10 rating (both scores average together for a 5.75, if that matters at all). Unfortunately, the story is so confusing to completely follow. Things will fly by your head left and right while you watch and in the end you will wonder WTF happened. The only way around it is probably to watch it over and over, which I wouldn’t dare venture to do.

Some random moments that will make you go ‘WTF’:

  1. Two cars have sex (penetration visible).
  2. ‘The Rock’ always walks around with twiddling his fingers, ala Mr. Burns.
  3. John Lovitz and Cheri Oteri have rough sex (they don’t show it).
  4. Justin Timberlake cusses, does drugs and drinks.

2 Responses to “Movies That Make You Go ‘WTF’: Southland Tales”



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