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|Index||22 reviews in total|
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut
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This sixties time-warped retro kind of "power to the people" nineties flick is mostly a procession of set pieces, some of which are not bad. The bit at the gun store with Billy Bob Thornton was superb. The crack philosophers scene was also very good. And the way "What's So Funny ‛Bout Peace, Love and Understanding?" was sung so badly was just perfectola. (Actually that's "What's So Bad about Peace, Love and Understanding?" but whatever...)
And the way that big silver fish popped those gold fish...gulp!
I think some of the negative comments about this movie ought to be greeted with a "Whoa, dudes--get a sense of humor." Or, "Don't be offended, man, it's only a movie." Or maybe, "Uh, the soundtrack is awesome, dude." (Oh, god, people really did talk like that!) The dream sequences fooled me at least twice. They were funny. Funniest line: when the trash lady pulls her rifle out of her cart and says "Vive la Revolution!" Second funniest line: "What kind of music do you want to hear?" "The farm report."
Okay, this was no masterpiece, and any episodic movie sans plot is not going to rival The Godfather here at IMDb. And James LeGros ain't no Marlon Brando. And if you've ever been to Venice Beach...well, you know it's a freak show. But I think director and screen writer Peter McCarthy did a nice job of bringing that slacker street scene to life. I think the big mistake was to headline actors like Steve Buscemi, John Cusack, Ethan Hawke, and Billy Bob Thornton when they only had cameos. That should have been made clear up front. And there was more than a touch of the kind of sixties moral pretension that we've all grown a little tired of. But bottom line for me, this was a funny movie.
This movie saved me from suicide.
This is not a feel good movie for people who already feel good or people who feel bad and want to stay that way. It is for people who feel that something is wrong, about the world, about themselves, about life as they know it. They want to fix what's wrong but they don't have the energy, the knowledge or the power to do it.
Nobody wants to be the main character, Jon, but if you were ever a unemployed college graduate, who smokes. drinks, fornicates, and thinks too much, you know how he feels and have had at least one day like his. The only difference is he snaps. Most of us dont snap because we are afraid of what we might do. What the movie shows is the results would probably be more ridiculous than terrifying.
Peter McCarthy writer/director of 'Floundering' had a hand in both 'Repo Man' and 'Tapeheads' and that may give you a little bit of an idea where this odd little movie is coming from, but not much. It really is very difficult to categorize. It's an almost stream of consciousness Gen X black comedy that often feels and looks like it's semi improvised. Several sequences completely fall flat, but then it'll bounce back with something genuinely original or inspired. James LeGros ('Drugstore Cowboy', 'Living In Oblivion') stars as a sensitive but confused slacker type who wrestles with his social conscience. The movie shows him going through a crisis period where his whole life falls apart. The movie features an impressive supporting cast of name actors (Buscemi, Cusack, Hawke, Billy Bob Thornton), musicians, weirdos and Alex Cox regulars Sy Richardson and Biff Yeager, even Cox himself appears in a brief cameo. The movies jumps between social realism and surrealism, quirky comedy and darker, more depressing material. It can often be quite frustrating to watch but it's still one of the most interesting and unusual indie movies to come out of the 1990s. Recommended for Alex Cox fans in particular, and fans of the offbeat in general.
I have watched that movie so many times and it has made me think a lot about my own life. This is the first movie that ever had such an impact on me, I never thaught a movie could be this personal and touching, I guess I thaught only a book could do this. I wanna say thanks to Peter McCarthy for making that film ! and James LeGros for doing such a great job with it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
WARNING: BIG SPOILERS.
Floundering is an obvious attempt by its director to both make his mark on the then-burgeoning Indie scene and make a Big Statement about the World, using Los Angeles as its synecdoche. It alternates between clever, brilliant, cloying, oppressively politically correct and/or strident, and painfully sophomoric. It is fun to watch, though ultimately as much as a train wreck than anything else.
The film concerns a character named apparently named John Boy, who drifts through a series of bizarre events, Candide-style, and makes wry philosophical observations about life and the state of the political world (LA in particular, and by extension, the USA) along the way. John is an interesting, flawed character, and his interactions with the people around him reveal both the craziness of the world and John's own flaws and foibles (his narcissism, for a start). There are clever little moments, dream sequences, odd little bits that seem improvised, all in this weird mix.
At about ¾ of the way through, I still felt I was watching a pretty good, if strongly flawed, movie. But then things take a turn toward hackneyed Hollywood cliché, and probably in an attempt at parody, but, if so, it's carried out so ineptly that it's impossible to tell. Additionally, the political views of the film seem to devolve until a combination of grumblings of "revolution" and a bone-stupid subplot involving perhaps the most thinly-disguised character in film history, "Merril Fence" (for those too young to remember 1992, he's supposed to be Daryl Gates nudge, nudge, wink, wink) pretty much swallows the film whole and craps it out, and what's left is crap.
The film is loaded, by the way with (a) some surprising cameos (John Cusack, Ethan Hawke), (b) lots of "before-they-were-famous" appearances (Viggo Morgensen, Billy Bob Thornton), and, for obvious reasons of tribute, the film is absolutely loaded with (c) references with Alex Cox's 1980's cult masterpiece, Repo Man, from which it also borrows some of its attitude, the rest of which it cops from Spike Lee's early films and Richard Linklater's Slacker.
Floundering ends with a one-two punch of feel-good poli-cor schmaltz, followed by absolutely the worst rendition of an New Wave pop song from the 80's you have ever heard, or will ever hear, by what one can only hope is an ad hoc folk duo, whom are suddenly joined by pretty much the entire cast of the movie. They might have well have just raised a white flag reading "WTF?". Still not as bad as Troll 2.
How can good intentions go so awry?
The movie has the right things to say. It attacks greed, racism, corporate indifference, and shallow relationships, and it features cameos by such interesting people as Steve Buscemi. John Cusack, and Billy Bob Thornton.
Unfortunately, it lacks one thing one usually looks for in a comedy, namely humor. It just isn't very funny.
Our hero has a really bad hair day. His girl is with another guy when he shows up early for a date. His brother breaks out of rehab, gets wasted and now thinks our hero is the devil. His bank accounts are possessed by the IRS. His unemployment runs out. His idealistic high school teacher has become a racist greedhead. He is pursued in a drive-by shooting.
He O.D.'s. He is sodomized after he passes out. ....Well, you get the point.
There are two ways to attack a hateful target. One is to use the sharp eye of satire, the other is to say "hey, that stinks". This movie does the latter. It uses the Beavis and Butthead level of analytical depth.
Unfortunately, everyone knows that racism stinks, and they go to movies to be entertained. Viewers may agree with the ideas in this one, and so they may feel good when he strikes back, but not many people will be entertained by it.
James LeGros stars as John Boyz in this interesting little indie-flick
with some interesting themes, perhaps a little more than it can tackle,
but with a great cast of (future) stars. No matter how casual LeGros
moves about in his slacker L.A. dreamworld, the film is fast-paced and
moves quickly from one scene to another, with hardly any scene lasting
more than a couple of minutes. The limited number of votes on the IMDb
is surprising, considering the number of stars in this film, including
John Cusack, Steve Buscemi, Billy Bob Thornton, Ethan Hawke.
Truly one of the highlights is when Billy Bob Thornton sells James LeGros a gun, son of a gun Thornton! He steals it, definitely.
The philosophy is not very lasting. The conservation with his father talking about sending the army into America's inner cities after the L.A. riots, since they control the country already. 'I think that's called fascism, dad.' And then the topic it's dropped and the film contains some more of these quasi-philosophical intakes, not very strong. And you don't wanna see James Le Gros dancing when he's drunk.
The whole thing is primitively filmed, it almost feels like a home movie, with the low key and somewhat amateurish score, but as a whole a slight but still quite an engrossing film.
Camera Obscura --- 7/10
This is a little movie with big things to say. There are some genuinely funny, thought provoking, and disturbing moments in this film. I was surprised to see it rated so low. Certainly not intended to be an academy award candidate nonetheless this film shines in its own way. Floundering takes you on a strange and comical trip that at times poignantly illuminates the absurd realities of modern life. This film takes on many issues through the "floundering" character of Le Gros; recycling, violence,sexuality, drug abuse, wealth disparity, family loss,mental health, and human fraternity to name a few. Look for some great cameos from the likes of Steve Buscemi, Billy Bob Thornton, and Kim Wayans.
Floundering is a film I could really relate with when I was fresh out of college, lost and feeling overwhelmed. It is well acted. Direction is passable, though not real important. It's well written if you don't mind breaking the cardinal rule of not having an interior monologue Voiced-over the whole movie by the protagonist. It's THAT kind of movie - where the most interesting action takes place in the characters' head and fantasies. It was also written in Los Angeles immediately following the Riots - which dates the film to anyone who has no memories of the event or climate of the time. (Merryl Fence = Daryl Gates. . . ) This is a character-driven film about a guy in a very confused, bad head-space. And it's good. . .until the end where the Elvis Costello kicks in and the theme of the film is kicked into your teeth with lots of bad singing. For anyone who has been 24 and depressed in the 90's, I'd recommend.
Floundering offers a fresh insight into the problems plagueing youth in the 90's. It revolves around a youth named John who is having extreme difficulty in finding his center. His situation is not improved by his philosophic friends who tell him it will take time, or by his drug-addicted paranoid (he calls John the devil) brother. The cast is sterling and the script is stong. This movie is one to see if things haven't been going your way.
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