Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

Written and directed by Edgar Wright, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is everything a favorite movie should be – inventive but familiar, surprising, rewarding and fun. It is a creatively conceived adaptation of a somewhat successful graphic novel about an indie band bassist (Michael Cera) who falls in love with a quirky loveable girl (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who comes – as most of us do – with baggage. Only this time, her baggage is in the form of seven evil exes transformed into videogame bad guys, all wrangled together by her King Koopa-like former love/current nemesis. And none of this seems particularly strange to anyone involved.

The peculiarity and beauty of Scott Pilgrim is that it treats the surreal as real, marrying genuine human interests and errors with fantastic, Mortal Kombat-like fantasies. It’s all the rage to compare things to The Matrix these days, so I’ll say Pilgrim is like The Matrix crossed with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004). The movie flows whimsically, seamlessly through Scott’s psyche. His world (i.e. the world of the movie) is a playground, at once tethered to reality and free-floating through imagination.

You get the sense that somewhere, in a real world, Scott’s sleeping in a bed somewhere while men with machines allow him to run through his dreams and battle his problems. But we never see those men, or their world, and instead remain free to jaunt happily through the wondrous surreality of his movie.

That movie’s filled with the names and faces of the cool kids and oddballs we all enjoy, starting with Cera himself, and working down through a list that includes Kieran Culkin, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza, Chris Evans, Nelson Franklin, Brandon Routh, Bill Hader and Jason Schwartzman, all congealing into a yearbook of “hey it’s that guy/girl” delight. It’s like seeing a bunch of movie/TV friends at a “No A-Listers Allowed” party, and really just enjoying the rebellious indie spirit of it all.

Because more than anything, Scott Pilgrim is a party. It’s filled with odd moments, big laughs, cool surprises and hormone-drunken fights. There are games and bands, broken hearts and self-realizations. And there’s not a parent in sight (the adults are all back in the real world, with their machines and rules).

And it’s Wright’s party.  His visuals pop, his direction is inspired. The man behind cult classics Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007) has taken his quirky sensibilities to the next level here, transcending the pop-references and inside jokes (see if you can catch the Cather in the Rye reference, that I missed but The Movie Gal pointed out) to make something truly special, a product that is more than just the sum of its parts. Plus, the parts are still awesome.

Wright’s cinema is occupied by the slacker chic, the ultimate in heroic underachievers (even when his hero is an anti-slacker like Hot Fuzz’s Nicholas Angel, Wright makes sure there’s a Danny Butterman to pull out the slacker-cool within). Scott is his latest Shaun, a clueless guy who must get a clue (or get a life) and overcome his faults if he is to save the day… but also a guy who must never lose his slacker innocence.

It’s that sentiment that fuels Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, that desire to hold onto our youth even as we evolve psychologically. That necessity to be adventurous and creative, and to have fun. Scott Pilgrim’s got spirit, and it’s that spirit that makes this movie so special.


? said...



I am so in lesbians with this review!

The Bru said...

Damn! You beat me to the joke!

JMoCrow said...

You may not have picked up on the overt hat reference, but you bring up an AMAZING second parallel to Catcher in the Rye...

"...a guy who must never lose his slacker innocence. It’s that sentiment that fuels Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, that desire to hold onto our youth" Da Wheels, it's as if you were writing about Holden Caufield! Brilliant!


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