Southland Tales was written and directed by Richard Kelly, who was also responsible for the cult hit Donnie Darko. Once again the initial response to a work of this director has been overly negative with early test screenings causing some major editing and further dismal reviews claiming that no one will “get” this film and everyone will be confused. So, has Kelly alienated and baffled his audience?
Southland Tales has a very intelligent plot, but to try and explain it out without the visual tools ala the movie itself it might indeed sound confusing. It is an ensemble piece set during the start and thereafter of World War 3 and political turmoil involving a new alternative source of energy, a radical group intent on throwing the presidential election, and an actor who disappears only to return with amnesia and a screenplay co-authored by a porn actress that seemingly predicts the future. I could go on and on with other aspects and what I really think it is all about, or tell you all about the rip in the fourth dimension, but truly it is a work of art open to some interpretation and I urge movie buffs to check it out and give it a chance.
The cast for Southland Tales is a list of impressive names and I will take the time to list many of them, but to point out individual achievements would be fruitless because every single person in the movie provided a rich and flawless performance. On the cast: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Seann William Scott, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Mandy Moore, Justin Timberlake, Jon Lovitz, Bai Ling, John Larroquette, Nora Dunn, Amy Poehler, Miranda Richardson, Kevin Smith, Wallace Shawn, and Christopher Lambert.
What about the film disappointed me? Indeed the almost 2 and a half hours drags a slight bit, yet every time I began to feel bored I would once again pull out of that notion and find I was actually fully immersed in the complicated proceedings on the screen. What truly disappoints me is that this version of the film was not the initial director’s cut. I want to see the version that scared audiences away in the test screenings. I want to see the version with comedian Janeane Garofalo’s role still intact. I want more!
This is not a movie where you know exactly what is going on for most of it, however, I did not find it so hard to follow even with the spectacularly quirky and unique ending. This is not your average movie experience, but if one opens their mind they may find themselves enjoying it and even letting out some giggles along the way. Perhaps it takes a special soul to see the humor in some of the set-ups, but it is indeed there and strong.
The critic Roger Ebert trashed this film and ranted about how confusing and dumb it was. However, Ebert is just shooting himself in the head with his commentary because I don’t think I am the most brilliant being on the planet and I had zero trouble understanding Southland Tales.
Southland Tales isn’t your average movie experience and it is filmmakers like Richard Kelly that help keep inspiration and the madness of wanting to make good quality features alive. Southland Tales is a pimp, and pimps don’t commit suicide.