Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Unnecessarily Embarrassingly Bad: James Franco's "Child of God"

Felt like people will say positive things about James Franco because of this movie, but I think those things will be unwarranted. The film itself is okay, particularly the middle.

The entire time up to until Franco showed up, I kept thinking, "I don't want to see James Franco. I don't want James Franco to actually be in this." Felt the same thing, really, when James Franco did show up, because his appearance was so small that it was honestly banal, unnecessary, and stupid.

Felt as though someone told James Franco about this "fucked up," "dark," "morbid," "twisted" novel, which made James Franco think, "Woah. I want to shock audiences with feces, necrophilia, cross-dressing, and human face-mask wearing a la 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre'." But Franco's film was NOT as dark/morbid/twisted as it was trying to be.

Felt weird by people who laughed or snickered whenever Lester spoke to his stuffed animals. Yes, it would be funny if you or I spoke to stuffed animals, since you and I live in the city and can connect with literally anyone. But it was not funny for Haze's character to speak to stuffed animals; on the contrary, his doing so spoke volumes about the necessity of companionship against loneliness.

Also, felt it was very clear-cut that Lester was mentally retarded, making the story much more heartbreaking because it was set in a time and place where other people didn't understand that.

Felt as though this could have been made much darker than it was; could have been made to be actually shocking and, thus, actually worth seeing as a movie instead of reading as a book. For example: Do Not burn a teddy bear lying face down in the coals of a fire to visually symbolize the fact that Lester's beloved girl-corpse is burning to ashes--show it, James Fracno, you fucking coward! If one of James Franco's purposes for making the the film was a desire to 'shock audience' with a 'dark and twisted' story, then he failed. The story is, in fact, dark and twisted, but that has nothing to do with James Franco or the film he co-wrote, directed, and appeared in; that is, the novel's complex darkness comes from Cormac McCarthy's story. A mere glance at the Wikipedia Page for the novel will show just how much more enriching the text is compared to the film.

Felt, at the very beginning of the film, that it was clumsily handled and, upon further reflection, felt that the ending was very clumsily handled as well. Before the film, there was a brief hoopla given by the New York Film Critics-blah-blah-blah spokesman, during which he called the film "complex" and James Franco as "talented." Shortly after the start of the movie, I thought, "It (the film) would have been better/tighter/neater if James Franco wasn't trying to do/be literally all of these different things at once (actor, poet, writer, director, producer, etc.)." Thought, "Maybe if James Franco weren't doing so many different things all the time, maybe if he focused his energy on one project and really tackled that one project, he might actually produce something quite good and then (and only then) may he possibly be worthy of the label 'talented'." Doing a million things at once is not talent: it just means you're taking drugs that make you manically scatterbrained. Talent is the ability to say and express something beautiful and heartfelt through dedicated hard work and James Franco simply spreads himself too thin to be genuinely talented.

This was an okay movie, so I would recommend seeing it, but DO NOT, as I did, pay $14 to see it. I nearly jumped when the snotty ticket seller at The Music Box told me the price. Since I was with friends, I coughed up the money, but had I known the price beforehand, I wouldn't have paid that much to see anything James Franco was involved in. Since James Franco was the "director," I knew the film would suck in certain regards because James Franco was attached to it. My god, every poster and trailer prominently displays James Franco's name and face as a character of note in the film, but really: "James Franco" is highly mentioned as an important actor in the film because James Franco couldn't see enough "James Franco" on the promotional materials, what with James Franco being the film's director, co-writer, and (probably) a producer of some sort. And who knows: maybe the "talented" James Franco did more than just that: I'm talkin' he applied the makeup and stitched the costumes himself because James Franco is. So. God. Damn. Talented!

Speaking of talent: Scott Haze. And I sincerely mean real talent. Haze was phenomenal in the film, diving deeply into the character of Lester Ballard, although maybe the real talent was working so closely with James Franco. Aside from the story, which would be better enjoyed via reading the Cormac McCarthy novel, this film's real saving grace is Scott Haze's performance.

In the first part/chapter of the film, there is narration and text.
First: The narration sounded as though several people were speaking, as though it was not the same person, which I thought was a smart choice because the story was being set up in the form of small town gossip, so it made sense for there to be numerous persons speaking. But after the film, outside, my friend and her roommate both commented on the narration, saying it was unnecessary, which I inferred to mean they hadn't noticed the different voices, which made me wonder: were there different voices, which would have been a smart choice, or just one voice who was narrating terribly? I had thought the former, but maybe it was actually the latter, which would have been bad and another factor of the "clumsy" handling of the film.
Second: There were times when text appeared on the screen, which I assumed were actual passages from Cormac McCarthy's novel, which at first seemed interesting and I thought was done in an O.K. fashion. But here's what really sucked about it: text appeared on the screen literally only two (2) times. If one is going to put text in a film, particularly quotes from the novel itself, then there should be numerous instances of text appearing on the screen, not just two. Two just makes the use of text all the more unnecessary. What made it worse was, while the first textual passage was rather intriguing, the second textual passage was literally so dumb. The second passage was nothing more than saying that the sheriff walked through a door to stand on the porch outside. And then the film literally showed Tim Blake Nelson walk through a door to stand on the porch outside. Had the film been better handled, an interesting stylistic choice might have been to cut from the text (i.e. - the simple stage direction) to Tim Blake Nelson already standing on the porch, lighting up a cigarette. Don't show us what you just told us; pick one or the other, for Christ's sake! As a good artist friend of mine maintains: don't tell AND show all at once. And I'm not talking about all text; indeed, another form of technical text that appeared in the film was "I:, II:, III:" which segmented the film into three 'chapters'. I liked this, thinking that the 'chapter'-text segments were properly placed, so I suppose the film editor did a good job with that.

But Scott Haze gave a phenomenal performance.  Tim Blake Nelson did a good job too. I remember really thinking his face looked haggard, which I felt was done on purpose (i.e. - makeup) for his character. He did a good job, but two of the lines he delivered were, I thought, truly terrible. Upon hearing them, I had the impression that they had been penned by Mr. Talented! The first was just a clumsy line near the beginning, when Tim Blake Nelson's character asks what malignant plans Lester has lain out to do. I can't remember it properly, nor can I remember the second line at all, but it was so bad I literally cringed (I mean it: I literally, physically cringed from intellectual discomfort from that second line when I heard it) and then I was aware of my ass in an uncomfortable seat and I shifted uncomfortably because there was only just enough room for my legs before they banged into the chair in front of me and I have blocked the quote from my memory it was so fucking bad! Again, this second terrible quote from the sheriff seemed to have been the spawn of James Franco's wannabe writer desire.

Okay, so as I said, it's an okay movie, but I wouldn't pay high theater prices to see it if I were you and, actually, now that I think of it: Just read the novel instead, as I plan to do.