Wednesday, June 23

Review: A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints

Perhaps the sole reason I'm able to be a filmgeek is DVDs. Or, to be precise, second-hand DVDs. The damn things are so incredibly cheap that you can pretty much buy anything you want. If it's great, you have a bargain and if it sucks you have not wasted very much money. You will have only wasted your time on some masturbatory brain-fart like A Guide to Recognizing your Saints.

A Guide is about some guy (Shia LeBouf) who lives in a bad neighborhood of some big city (I think it's New York, but I literally don't give enough of a crap to fact-check that). His father doesn't love him, he had bad friends, he gets beaten up, blah die blah die blah. He sort of escapes all this and years later, when he is an accomplished writer (Robert Downey Jr., who also happens to be the sole reason I bought this crap), he returns because his father is sick and needs convincing to go to the hospital.

The story apparently really happened to somebody called Dito Montiel. He later wrote a book about it, called A Guide To Recognizing your Saints. And then somebody decided to make a movie out of that book. That somebody is called Dito Montiel.

And there we have the exact reason this film sucks. It's an auteur project. Someone had some troubling experiences, and decides to milk it for all his worth. Oh sure, it was probably very hard for him to grow up in an environment like that, but that doesn't mean it has any dramatic resonance with the audience. In fact, most of the characters are so unlikable or just downright retarded it's hard to even give a crap. One of the stupidest characters, for instance, decides at one point to jump on the train tracks. His friends, who seem to possess functioning brains, yell at him that he's an idiot and should get back up on the platform. The guy seems to respond. He walks to the edge of the platform, where his friends are trying to hoist him up. But before he wants his life to be saved, he ask that the friends, I kid you not, tell him how much they love and appreciate him. They respond in the most logical way: by continue too shout athim that he's an idiot. Unmoved, he stands still while the train is approaching, not even getting out of it's way, and SPLAT! Retard jelly.

Is this supposed to be dramatic? Should we feel sorry now? I had a hard time not laughing. I'm sure it was really dramatic when it actually happened, but that doesn't mean it makes good screen drama. Notice that this is a pretty major flaw when you're trying to make a dramatic film.

Something that also struck me as being very odd, if not downright stupid, is the casting. Oh, the ACTORS are all fine. But the combination off them just doesn't make any sense. For instance, the protagonist has a girlfriend when he is younger. She is, logically, about the same age as he. But in the "many years later" parts of the movie, the protagonist is played by Robert Downey Jr., who was 40 at the time. The girlfriend is played by Rosario Dawson, who was 26 at the time. They are both great actors, but seeing them talk to each other as if they are friends from way back is just ridiculous. Also, who ever thought that Shia Lebouf and Robert Downey Jr. looked anything like each other? LeBouf might look a bit foreign, but Downey Jr. is as white as a snowman. THIS IS A PROBLEM IF THE CHARACTER IS SUPPOSED TO BE ETHNIC.

Pretty much how I felt after watching the film

A Guide to Recognizing your Saints is a dramatic film that doesn't work as a drama and, frankly, doesn't work as a film either. The big mistake the movie makes is that whenever something bad happens on the screen, the audience will completely agree that this is very traumatic and perhaps even shed a few tears. The only tears I shed were for the time I had lost watching this piece of trash.

The soundtrack was really good, though.


I wish the movie would have a little more of the gritty madness that Tom Waits uses to describe the bad parts of town. Oh well. Be sure to turn your amp up a little beyond a comfortable volume.

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