Very Bad Things (1998)
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And they will especially hate the excruciating progression of the plot. In the tradition of Hitchcockian films like "Shallow Grave", "A Simple Plan", and "Dead In the Water", the events in the plot start out with a of a bad mistake, compounded by the worst aspects of human nature... and then motives of greed and fear cause more mistakes, things start to spiral out of control, and finally one mistake piles onto another until things are so awful that suicide seems like an easy way out...and in fact, an amazingly large number of people end up dead. That can be hard to watch, and it isn't every body's cup of tea.
I fall into the other 50%, the group who enjoy this kind of savage, mean-spirited humor. I am of the opinion that Berg made exactly the film he wanted to make, and that he left it up to the audience to take it or leave it. I think that Berg wanted to hit a top note of wicked glee right away, and to sustain it for as long as he possibly could. And I think that the actors - Favreau, Slater, and Stern especially - came through with hysteric, overblown performances that make the movie exhausting and hard to watch in spots. But there is JUST enough believability to their performances that you feel as if that could be you, stuck in their place.
Special kudos also go to Cameron Diaz for being willing to play such a narcissistic twit, somewhat of a stretch from the sunny, happy All American Girl types she has done so well over the last few years, And to Jeanne Tripplehorn, as the baffled and angry wife of one of the brothers, who knows something is wrong and can't be deflected until she learns the truth.
The final shot, as Diaz's character runs screaming out the dream home-turned-nightmare to collapse gibbering in the street, is priceless, and serves as kind of a cosmic punchline to all the mayhem, murder, and malice of the presetting 90 minutes, and leaves me with a guilty grin on my face and a huge sense of relief - my life looks so good compared to what just went on in the movie that I want to dance like a white guy!
The proper reaction to "Very Bad Things" probably ranges somewhere between a horrified giggles and the drunken bray of startled laughter you would make after hearing a really good "dead baby joke" for the first time.
Acting is everything in this movie - as the plot spirals out of control, the acting has to maintain the necessary suspension of disbelief. Here it does.
Daniel Stern gives an eyeball-popping tour de force among a cast with some excellent character actors.
A gory and grotesque comedy nightmare masterpiece!
Now, in my view, the haters would probably have been comfortable renting something like 'Independence Day' for sentiment and performances, or 'My Big Fat Greek Crowdpleasing Wedding' if they want an occasional satirical but ultimately life-affirming comedy about love and marriage.
VBT is neither. It's pretty much unpleasant from beginning to end, from prostitution to fratricide, and not in the least life-affirming. Everyone, from the psychopathic realtor played by Slater, to the morally vacuous and weak-willed groom-to-be is grotesque. However, I venture to add: it IS funny, and it IS clever.
Not merely, as Americans like to say, 'gross out' funny, but morally satirical. One of the darkest moments of the film is where the practising Jew character, the most morally developed of all in the movie has an attack of conscience as the group are preparing to dispose of the bodies of a prostitute and a security guard out in the desert.
He says they must observe the Jewish practice that requires the bodies to be interred as complete, which provies impossible as both have been hacked up, wrapped up in plastic and distributed amongst four suitcases. What follows is a gruesome jigsaw puzzle of body parts, culminating a great sight gag of them lying out neatly arranged.
There is a more serious premise behind the story of how five apparently ordinary guys who start out on a bachelor weekend are drawn progressively into more and more despicable acts. One of the great moral questions, from the time of the Greek moral philosophers to our own experience of the holocaust is how men come to do evil.
Are there just some evil men, waiting for their potential to be awakened, or is there the potential in all of us, if we are given the excuse and the opportunity? Or is all that is required for evil, as the axiom states, that good men do nothing? Certainly, in the early part of the movie when the first death is down to an accident resulting from a series of misdemeanours, the more moral and sympathetic members of the groups are crucially transfixed by the possible damage to themselves from coming clean at that point.
It's at that point that Slater's character, the charming, functioning psychopath (he does them so well) is able to seize the initiative, provide what appears to be a practical and just about morally palatable solution to their problem and a path back to normality.
This is the true moral junction of the film; everything beyond that is a satirical commentary on their inability to do the one good thing required of them - come clean at the outset. Trying to read the film as totally naturalistic beyond that point doesn't work - it becomes increasingly absurd and unpredictable for comic purposes.
This is a very wordy movie. The script is subtle and complex, and a large part of that is given over to Slater and his persuasive speeches on why a particular course of action should be taken at a particular time.
In the beginning, he exhorts the group that they should cover up the prostitute's death and provides practical arguments to support this, seizing on the upcoming wedding as a moral defence for the actions they are going to commit. The movie's absurdity lies in the ever more extreme and disproportionate acts the group are prepared to commit simply for a wedding to take place.
But there is a serious point underlying this. One common facet of 'organised evil' by apparently normal, moral individuals is the belief that unpleasant acts are necessary for a greater good. This becomes a device to obscure the badness of the bad things because the intent remains good. Should we judge acts by themselves or their intent?
The film suggests, in contemporary society, we've descended even lower. We are obsessed by the appearance of morality rather than the actual practice of it. A society obsessed by symbols, ceremony and rituals rather than the truths they are supposed to represent. And Cameron Diaz is a wonderful exemplar of that ideal as the ruthless bride who steals the last 10 minutes of the movie.
By Blake French:
"Allow me to be the first to say that what we have done here is not a good thing. It's definitely not a good thing. But it was, given the circumstances, the smart play." --Robert Boyd
If anything, Peter Berg's "Very Bad Things" triggers a response, regardless of the nature. My initial reaction to the dark, disturbing parody was bleak and unpleasant. The movie displays sick, demented behavior and despicable, annoying characters. It's not humanly possible to like anyone in the movie. Christian Slater's character is cruel and selfish. Cameron Diaz displays a whiny, obsessive portrayal. I needed an aspirin during this unfunny mess.
I viewed the film a second time; surprisingly, my opinion differed greatly. I liked all the same parts, but this time, my attitude changed. I watched with more of an open mind-the film is advertised as a dark comedy, but-although a few explosively funny moments occur-the film seldom provokes laughs. It's important to watch abstractly, with no remorse or guilt for enjoying the unholy revelation of events. Everything that happens here makes perfect sense under the circumstances. If you don't expect a light hearted, laugh a minute comedy, then "Very Bad Things" fulfills a long-needed niche in Hollywood.
"Very Bad Things" is, like the tagline notes, a very savage comedy. It does not paint a happy portrait of our society-it's a scathing satire on American values. It's needlessly racist, sexist, and vulgar. It depicts a gross portrayal of modern families, the delicate but perverse male mindset, disgusting bachelor parties, and even the "happiest day" of many lives-the wedding day.
Cameron Diaz plays Laura Garrety, a selfish, whiny bride-to-be. She's getting married in three days to a handsome fellow named Kyle Fisher (Jon Faveau from "Swingers"). She isn't happy with his decision to travel to Vegas with his friends for a bachelor party. They include two bickering brothers, Adam (Daniel Stern), and Michael (Jeremy Piven, who stepped into the role after Adam Sandler stepped out to make "The Waterboy."), as well as an organized but cruel real estate agent named Robert Boyd (Christian Slater), and a quiet mechanic named Charles Moore (Leland Orser).
Once they arrive in Vegas, a stylistic montage sequence shows the five friends gambling, snorting cocaine, and drinking lots of alcohol. They settle in for the night at a fancy hotel, where a stripper (Carla Scott) arrives and lap dances the guys into a frenzy. Michael takes her into the bathroom for sex, but accidentally drives the stripper's head into a towel hook, instantly killing her. The rest of the men panic and want to call for help, but Boyd has a better idea. He wants to bury the body in the nearby desert. The intrusion of a hotel security guard complicates the issue. Boyd kills him with a corkscrew during a particularly unpleasant scene. The rest decide to use a chain saw to cut up the bodies and carry them to the desert in suitcases, where they do indeed put the unfortunate souls underground.
Although not for the easily offended, "Very Bad Things" takes us on a roller coaster ride through immorality and its consequences. It's fun watching the sequences of events, the bodies piling up, and the exaggeration of our most improper impulses. A great cast demonstrates their fine acting abilities. The script, also by Peter Berg, features very smart, witty dialogue. Berg directs the chaos with an engaging style-especially during the scenes in Vegas, and keeps the momentum throughout the movie. If the filmmakers played the material as straight drama, it might have worked even better, but as it is, "Very Bad Things" is a joy ride through harsh satire.
They return home and Adam freaks out with the situation, causing an accident with his wife Lois Berkow (Jeanne Tripplehorn) and children. Meanwhile Laura organizes the wedding party and during the rehearsal, Michael and Adam have a serious argument and Michael decides to hit the minivan of his brother. Adam tries to protect his minivan and is accidentally murdered by his brother. Soon Lois finds a note written by Adam and presses the group to know what happened in Vegas. What will happen to them?
"Very Bad Things" is one of the darkest comedies ever. The storyline of a group of friends that accidentally kills a woman is not original and has been used many times (for example, the 1997 low-budget "Stag"). However, "Very Bad Things" by Peter Berg has improved the story and is little gem of black humor. My vote is eight.
Title (Brazil): "Uma Loucura de Casamento" ("A Crazzy Wedding")