Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Not At All About The Benjamins

So far this week I've reviewed a somewhat boring martial arts movie and a fairly lame comedy. These are both examples of standard, predictable films that Hollywood insists on making again and again, over and over, ad infinitum, unto the end of the world. A billion years from now when the Sun goes nova people will be in a theater watching a movie about a two fisted loner cop who has to go outside the system to deal with a gang of sadistic drug dealers who killed his partner. The cop will be a robot, his partner will be from Mars and the drug dealers will be lobsters who have evolved to human levels of intelligence but the plot will be the same otherwise. They probably won't be watching a movie like Franklyn.

Franklyn came out earlier in the year. I liked the look of the trailer and was annoyed that this British fantasy wasn't slated for a U.S. premiere. The movie is about four very damaged people living in London trying to put their lives back together. There's Emilia (Eva Green), a depressed artist trying to incorporate her own suicide into a performance piece. You also have Peter Esser (Bernard Hill), an older man looking for his son who escaped from a mental institution. Milo (Sam Riley) is a recently divorced man trying to track down his childhood sweetheart. Finally, you have Ryan Phillipe playing Jonathan Preest, the character who makes the movie really freaky and was probably the reason that American theaters didn't want to show this movie. Preest is a superhero who lives in an alternate world called Meanwhile City, a dark, depressing place ruled by an oppressive theocracy. Preest is the city's ultimate enemy. In Meanwhile City, you can follow any faith you want up to and including a religion built around washing machine instructions. Preest is the one thing you're not allowed to be: an atheist. It's odd to me that Preest's story about a superhero in an alternate, fictional world was actually the easiest of the four storylines to follow.

I almost stopped watching Franklyn during it's first half. It's basically four different movies that are, to varying degrees, depressing. It was mainly Preest's story and the wonderfully imaginative dystopian world he lived in that kept me watching. It became engrossing only when you begin to figure out what's really going on, find out how these four are connected and discover why the hell the movie is called Franklyn. After that, I couldn't turn away.

This is a truly original film. There are no scenes where someone says, "I have a bad feeling about this," or car chases in the Los Angeles River. It's dumb that this never showed in U.S. theaters, especially if the reason was a perception that it was pro-atheist since anyone who's actually seen the movie can tell you it wasn't. At least we have DVDs that give us access to these lost and neglected films so now at least I can recommend that you add Franklyn to your Netflix queue. If not, have fun in the theaters watching movies about sparkly vampires fighting ninjas while Los Angeles falls into the sea.

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