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There isn't one single character in this movie that I didn't want to
kick in the face. All I saw for the duration of this film were a bunch
of self-absorbed a-holes walking around and whining. We're meant to
feel that this is somehow a coming-of-age for these youths who feel
completely disaffected with reality crashing down on them. However, not
one lesson was actually learned. No one, at any point in this movie,
could manage to look outside of themselves and acknowledge anything
outside of their microcosm of existence.
Not every film needs a stated lesson, that's true. "Kids" got away with not having one for a couple of reasons:
1) The lesson was implied. We actually KNEW what was going on, and how to feel about it. This movie didn't for one minute arise any emotion in me other than "Good God, these kids are all dip****s". As we drifted from one confusing scene to the next, I tried to figure out what they were building up to. Ultimately, it was simply that every character in this movie deserved to be hated. It's the only thing I actually learned.
2) "Kids" actually had enough real drama to speak to it's audience without needing a well-defined lesson. A scene which is powerful enough will speak for itself. We know that it's simply a representation of art imitating life, and we come away understanding the realistic horrors that it exemplifies. All that SubUrbia had was a bunch of laughable melodrama. A bunch of arrogant, disrespectful little dillweeds who despite their whining and wishing for change, never come away with the fact that THEY are the biggest reason that they're being held back.
It's not that I "don't get it". It's not that I didn't grow up in the 1990's (I did). It's not that I don't understand the slacker/Generation X cultures of the era (It was slightly before my time, but I still understand it). It's not that I didn't feel just as confused, angry, and depressed as any one of these kids at that point in my life (or for that matter, before and after). I understand (on some level) how these characters felt and acted. However, when I was expecting a "coming-of-age" film to actually come of age, this one didn't. It went nowhere. It showed no development in character. Most characters are just as one-dimensional at the end of the film as they were from the start. Sure, they can identify their flaws. However, they can't seem to come to terms with them. All the while, I'm expecting for these kids to learn something. Instead, I'm shown that they're devoid of decency, and seem perfectly content with being so.
The only emotion I could feel was anger. Anger that I spent two hours watching a bunch of snots with no regard for anyone but themselves act out some lousy melodrama. The fact that afterwards, it's not shown or implied that they will suffer any consequences for their stupidity or selfishness. At least in "Kids", it was understood that many of the characters would have dire consequences for their actions. "Thirteen" as well. Provided, both movies were more dark than this one. But SubUrbia certainly tried to be heavy. It failed. Sure, some of the characters (despite the fact that virtually all of them are despicable, shallow, self-centered a-holes) are relatable to anyone who was ever a teenager. But that doesn't make them good, nor does it make the film in which they appear in good either. I'm not arguing against this film like some crusty old man who forgot what it was like to be young. I hate this film when I was 17, and I hate it now. SubUrbia seemed to think that relatable characters would be enough to carry the rest of the film. It wasn't.
It's like when I watched "Clerks" for the first time. Throughout the movie, I tended to sympathize with one of the seemingly luckless main characters. But then when another character gets sick of his b.s, he laid it all out to him as to why he was being a yutz. Then I thought to myself about that exchange just as much as the characters on-screen were meant to. See, that's why Clerks worked, despite the fact that the entire thing was mostly comedic melodrama. Because the film moved from one emotional platform to the next in the context of growing up and understanding life. That is, it CAME OF AGE.
I hated SubUrbia. It's is obnoxious and shallow. It may have attempted to be obnoxious, but I know full and well it wanted to be anything but shallow. I kept expecting either a lesson to be learned, a character to have sympathy for, or a powerful enough segment that spoke to me above the level of simple young adult disaffection. This film accomplished none of that. It was melodrama without any real resolution. There was no one to feel sorry for. Nothing to think about. It's a coming-of-age film that failed to do so.
For more on absolutely terrible films that attempt to show despicably shallow, arrogant, and ignorant disaffected youth in a protagonistic light, see "Reality Bites".
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Richard Linklater definitely has an eye for America's mundane middle
class, his films Slacker (1991) and Dazed and Confused (1993) brought
an artistic perspective to the experience of the suburban miscreant
that in many ways becoming the defining discourse on youth in the
1990s. Highlighting the ritualistic 'Friday night' and purposeless
afternoons, Linklater uncovered the hidden cultural vibrancy within a
section of the population who are so often maligned as 'cultureless'.
In a particular montage from Dazed and Confused, images of young people
cruising the main drag are flashed within a backdrop of the neon
twilight typical of America's commercialized sprawl. From the eye of
the uninspired, the environment seems completely homogeneous, yet
Linklater's intrinsic sensibility of the suburban aesthetic succeeds in
portraying this as a scene of excitement and all out possibility where
the characters look alive and enthusiastic amidst such an artificial
and wearisome environmentit is a defining moment in Linklater's
uniquely modern depiction of the sublime, his triumph to find beauty in
monotonous. Linklater's adaptation of Erica Bogosian's play subUrbia
(1996) follows the same current as the scene in Dazed, yet sans the
youthful idealism and expanding upon the central theme of Bogosian's
work: suburban decay.
SubUrbia is stock full of familiar images of the suburban aesthetic 20 years down the road from Dazed (Both filmed in suburban Texas) and backed with a soundtrack courtesy of Sonic Youth (a band whose sound I would argue replicates the feeling of 1990's America.) In a consistently sedated tone, the film follows a group of substance abusing 20-something nobodies in their stagnant town of Burnfield. Terrified to actually confront any progress or purpose, these pseudo-adults stand around in a convenience store parking lot talking about themselves in self-congratulatory manner (the film's particular capitalization of the second 'U' in the title speaks to this theme of self-absorption.) The story's protagonist Jeff (played very convincingly by Giovanni Ribisi) is a jaded, unmotivated anti-hero with seemingly good intentions, but never the follow through to back them up. Consequently, he lives out of a pup-tent in his parents' garage, barely holding a part time and satisfying his latent intellectual streak with a night class at the local community college. Jeff's girlfriend Sooze (Amie Carey) is a sort of caricature of the suburban bred artist set on 'escaping' to New York, while Sooze's character hints at aspects of the genuine, she is ultimately malleable to outside forces such as the romanticized escape dream and the reemergence of a former fellow burnout turned rock star 'Pony'(Jayce Bartok.) The others group in the group of misfit are decidedly more volatile, killing time with a self-destructive consumption of booze and harassing a Pakistani convenience store owner Nazeer (Ajay Naidu) who they xenophobically refer to as 'Mohammed' even though his real name is not revealed until the film's closing climax. Jeff's best friend Tim (Nicky Katt) is the prime perpetrator of the racism towards Nazeer, referring to him as a 'brown bastard' and yelling sexual and racial epithets at the store owner's wife after she pulls a gun on him during one confrontation. Tim is far and away the least likable character of the film, and it would be easy to write him off as a cut-out racial bully, yet he is also the films most powerful representation. Tim alludes on several occasions to his service in the air force and success as a high school football star, but never does he portray his experience as being in any way glorious or important, nor does he speak of anything in such a manner, he seems numbed by his blasé surroundings and only displays emotion in the context of anger or violence toward outside forces. He is the archetype of what a harsh suburban environment creates: an angry, ignorant addict trapped in his own misdoings. Interestingly, Tim is the only one of the characters who does not in at least some way attest to being an 'artist'. Jeff justifies his laziness with a hobby of creative writing, Pony has found success with his songs (a success that Jess and Tim highly resent) and even goof-ball druggie Buff (played with the now familiar zaniness of Steve Zahn) claims to make videos. The motif is very ironic for the filmmakers Linklater and Bogosian, as it seems to critique the salience of white, suburban-raised voices in the artistic world. The group of friends exists in opposition to the film's only pragmatic character, Nazeer, who takes pride in being a business owner and on his way to a computer science degree, while the likes of Tim and Buff drift through life with their only goal being to wake up the next more and start the cycle of decay over again. Jeff sits on the fringe of these two worlds as evidenced by his civil interactions with Nazeer and being the only one to actually ask for his real name. There is a sparkle of enlightenment in Jeff, and he even reaches his own cathartic epiphany, screaming passionately about the privilege of being able to be alive, yet the motivation draining presence of his friends and environment ultimately appear to have him cornered. In the films closing scene, a lesser mentioned friend of the group Bee Bee is found on the convenience store's roof having suffered an overdose. Nazeer looks directly at Jeff in disbelief and sadness, saying "You have everything and you throw it all away!" Jeff says nothing in response, just staring back at Nazeer blankly, his face distraught but blank in the same momenthe recognizes the plague of his situation, yet remains incapable of action. ********
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Well written by Eric Bogosian, but the ending leaves a bad taste in my
mouth. It seems that the moral of this film is to stab your friends in
the back and to sell out to succeed in life.
Nicky Katt's Tim is my favorite character in cinema history. He brilliantly portrayed an ex-soldier with gallons of hatred stored up inside. I saw a lot of myself in that character, and it was quite a wakeup call.
The actor's did a great job, especially Katt, Giovanni Ribisi and Ajay Naidu. I couldn't stand Amie Carey's character, and applauded Nicky Katt every time he told her off. This is the best film for the Gen-X crowd ever made, as Bogosian perfectly creates these youthful characters who are too old to be young and too young to be old. I find myself reciting Giovanni's rants on society often.
I highly recommend this film, but the ending may disappoint you.
This is what happens to people who don't like where they at in life and are bored and self-absorbed. I can't see the point of the movie. The only one of the group who actually ended up better off was the goofy perverted stoner who's thoughts never went beyond sex fantasies and getting wasted. The ending was obtuse and open-ended. Nobody seems to "get it". Supposedly it's one of those cutting-edge growing up flicks but best I can tell, it was a movie about a pack of idiots remaining confused in the suburbs.
I actually saw this on on Tv just now (15 mins ago) and I got really
impressed! I was stunned by this one!
This movie is based on the conversation and dynamic between the characters. It is almost only conversation and it is so beautifully done. A great script and dialogue and great directing. The director really got a great "atmosphere" and feeling into this movie. It is a serious and intelligent drama that really got me thinking.
It really sent the message of isolation, and the longing to get away from the "dead" suburb. With little means they create a tense and interesting dynamic and overall a intersting film, from the beginning to the end. The acting is great form all involved.
I really cant explain it all in words, but I definetly would recommend this one! Go see it and as long as you have a somewhat developed taste in movies (not the average "Armageddon lovers" that is) you will probably like, if not love, this one!
Suburbia is a very memorable film filled with deep, well written characters
by playwright/screenwriter Eric Bogosian.
It revolves around a group of disenfranchised 20 somethings hanging around a local convenience store in fictional Burnfield, during a night in which an old friend turned succesful rock musician (Jayce Burtok) returns to visit them.
The center character is Jeff (Giovanni Ribisi), who seems to be the most intelligent, well spoken and good natured one of the bunch, but is just as confused as the rest. His friends are Tim (Nicky Katt), a surly air force dropout who is becoming an alchoholic, and Buff (Steve Zahn), a zany, off the wall slacker who's life seems to revolve around pizza, sex and weed/alcohol.
Joining them are Jeff's malcontent girlfriend Sooze (Aimy Carey), and her friend, recovering addict Bee-Bee (Dina Spyby). Sooze is an artist wanna-be with dreams of leaving Burnfield behind for New York.
Rising tension mounts not only when Pony, along with assistant Erica (Parker Posey) enter the scene, but with the escalating feud between Tim and the Pakastani store owners, Nazeer and Pakisa (Ajay Nauida is the voice of them, and reason).
Suburbia is a dark, entertaining film bolstered by strong performances, the standout being Nicky Katt as Tim, who seemingly becomes more and more of a monster as the night goes on (and he gets more drunk).
It's one not to miss, a lesser known gem of a film from the writer of Talk Radio and the director of Dazed and Confused.
Not in any way is this a comedy. It is a disturbing tale of love, growing up, and how people change. It's really a drama with some funny lines, but it's a beautiful film. The entire movie, well, really just the main character Jeff, spews truth with every line. I believe it should be mandatory everyone should see this.
Not much of a plot, but that is to be expected. Parker Posie was at her best as usual (see Daytrippers). Although its obviously a stage play caught on film, Linklater is once again able to bring you in and make you forget about the medium (see Waking Life)
"At least I admit I don't know. I know that things are f-ed up beyond
belief, and I know that I have nothing original to say about any of it, all
right? I don't have an answer. I don't have a f-ing message."
Really enjoyable, and totally not in the same vein as the empty genre American Beauty has carved out. In fact, the type of characters one would find in the aforementioned movie is the butt of the joke in this movie. See, living in suburbia can be very miserable, but the protagonist is fortunately on an entirely different level than the fish-out-of-water spoilt suburban kid usually projected on screen. This is a definite well-rounded movie. Aside from great dialogue, the acting and comedic timing is excellent. There are many times during the movie that I just doubled over with laughter, and of course there are plenty of smiles throughout. Thought-provoking without biting off more than it can chew.
I have to say that one of my favorite parts is when the ritzy publicist says, "I love Anne Rice." And Ribisi just smirks.
Let me just start off by saying that Richard Linklater is a genius. All of his movies, ok except for Newton Boys, are in my top 20. Suburbia is my favorite however for a few different reasons. 1.) Excellent dialogue, you can tell it is from a Begosian play, and of course Begosian rocks. 2.) Great Directing by Linklater, he makes the witty dialogue work in limited settings and time frame of one night. 2.) Great Acting by Giovanni Ribisi, Nicky Katt, Steve Zahn, and my favorite actress Parker Posey (I love her). 4.)It is a real intelligent movie as it analyzes different aspects of society. I have friends that call it a teen angst movie about how Suburbia sucks and I couldn't disagree more. It has a much more of universal point of how life goes on and to not let life pass you by. I have read previous reviews of this movie and people have said, "I don't know anybody who acts like the characters do in the movie." That is such crap. You never wondered what you wanted to do with your life and were scared of change? I think everyone has experienced that at some point in there life, that is why the movie is so important to me. I recommend this movie to anyone who wants to take a chance on character driven movie that just might touch them. This is not a teen comedy as it has been marketed. 10 out of 10
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