October 19, 2011

Justify My Netflix: Passion Play

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

Passion Play

Today's movie: Passion Play, 2010 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because I found the cornucopia of fascinating indie details behind this troubled production just too enticing a siren song to pass up: a pet project of writer/director/producer Mitch Glazer (Scrooged, Lost in Translation, and lots of other surprisingly great films), which took him over twenty years to get made, despite its stellar cast (including Megan Fox, Mickey Rourke, Bill Murray and Glazer's wife Kelly Lynch) it was thoroughly trashed by nearly every critic after its debut at last year's Toronto Film Festival, eventually receiving a tiny one-week run in theaters and then unceremoniously dumped into DVD remainder-bin hell.

The reality: As any fan of the following can tell you, there are actually two types of midnight cult movies that exist in the world -- the ones designed from the start to be so, which to purists can often be disappointing precisely because of their winking, in-on-the-joke tone, and then the much more satisfying ones that accidentally achieve cult status, created with a sincere heart but such utter trainwrecks that you can't help but to love them anyway, for their misguided earnestness if nothing else. And I'm perversely happy to say that Passion Play quite squarely falls into the latter camp, a project that's easy to believe that Glazer first cooked up way back in his twenties, because it literally contains every bad undergraduate art-major cliche known to the human race. He's a fedora-wearing, down-on-his-luck jazz musician! Who owes money to mobsters! And slept with the head gangster's girlfriend! Who is taken into the desert to be killed! But then is saved by a mysterious roving band of silently wise ghost-like Native Americans! And then stumbles across a 19th-century-style carnival! Where he falls in love with a beautiful side-show geek! Who has real wings!

I could go on and on and on like this (and I mean literally -- that was only the first twenty minutes), but I think I've made my point, that it would be literally impossible to make a movie this charming/awful if you were deliberately trying to make a charming/awful film; and that of course is the massive irony behind the movies that my fellow midnight enthusiasts and I end up loving so much, that said movies wouldn't be nearly as wonderful if it wasn't clear just how seriously these poor terrible filmmakers took them when making them, with it completely missing the point when such films deliberately try to laugh along with you, the main reason I was never able to get into that endless spate of hipster grindhouse films that all came out about a decade ago. An absolutely atrocious experience in the absolute best sense of the term, Passion Play is a trainwreck that must be seen to be believed, and I look forward to the day twenty years from now when the next generation of stoned college students happily re-discover this gloriously godawful mess.

Worth your time? If you're a drunk 19-year-old and it's two in the morning, then yes

Filed by Jason Pettus at 9:08 AM, October 19, 2011. Filed under: