Movie Review by Susan Hodgetts
Starring: Matt Damon, Casey Affleck
Director: Gus Van Sant
I expected something a little better from Gus Van Sant, director of previous gems such as MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO, DRUGSTORE COWBOY, and TO DIE FOR; but unless you have a predilection for watching paint dry, don’t bother with this pretentious vanity project.
Even in the opening sequence, where Damon and Affleck are driving in a car in silence (which seems to go on forever), the only point seems to be to show up how dirty the windscreen is.
We learn, after about half an hour, when the pair finally speak, that Damon and Affleck are driving on the way to do a hike to see ‘the thing.’ Unfortunately they get lost, give up on ‘the thing,’ can’t find their way back, and get stranded to the point of no return; a bit like the film really.
Affleck sleepwalks through the movie like he’s stoned, whinging in a high-pitched squeal like Stan Laurel, and like he really couldn’t give a stuff. Damon is better and there’s nothing wrong with his acting, but there’s simply no attempt at any characterisation whatsoever by either of them. The pair barely speak, and when they do, it’s not even to say anything remotely interesting and you end up wishing they’d just kept their mouths shut. I’m not sure whether the point is that they’re supposed to be ordinary, but even ordinary people are more entertaining than this talking about their kitchen sink. Affleck’s rambling monologue about a computer game, which is like listening to some stoner going on about his penchant for bits of wood, is just completely bizarre.
Given the real life friendship of Damon and best bud Ben Affleck’s younger brother, it looks like they, along with Van Sant, were given a load of money along with a few weeks’ holiday in Argentina, and then they panicked just before the end – oh shit, we were supposed to make a film. Quick, better come up with something. Think, think, think. Hey, Gus, we can fill it with a bit of your standard pretty photography. That’ll do! They seem to think they could carry a film on their own without any plot, characterisation or even a script merely by just being in it, and the arrogance of this uninspired, unoriginal, project almost insults the intelligence of the movie going public.
And the film is just plain lazy. Both characters are called Gerry (maybe there’s a point to this?) but given that their original expedition is just explained as a trip to see ‘the thing’ (they couldn’t even be bothered to think up a name for it or any kind of motivation for going to see it), I wouldn’t be surprised if they just couldn’t be bothered to think up another name, since this seems to sum up the effort that was put into the “plot” or “script”.
The best bit is the photography – there’s evidence of Van Sant’s desire to return to MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO’s visual style, with loads of swooshing clouds in the sky and their reflection on the mountains. However, where IDAHO was merely complemented by the use of the clouds, this film was padded out with (endless) footage of the clouds because, quite frankly, there was nothing else to it.
I expected more from Van Sant, who should know that just images do not a story make. And I’m amazed that no-one pointed out to him that once you’ve nipped out for a fag break, a loo break, maybe had a spot of dinner along the way, returned and still been on the same sequence, it’s probably TOO LONG.
Affleck and Damon stumble through the film like two simpletons – even their half-hearted occasional attempt at ironic humour is just bewilderingly stupid.
There is simply no excuse for this film. It is, without doubt, one of the most uninspired, boring and inconsequential films I’ve seen.
(And that’s for the cinematography!)