A psychologically troubled novelty supplier is nudged towards a romance with an English woman, all the while being extorted by a phone-sex line run by a crooked mattress salesman, and purchasing stunning amounts of pudding.
Paul Thomas Anderson
Philip Seymour Hoffman
I worry about movies that use narration over the film once it's started, and The Anarchist Cookbook did just that. However, once it established the setting and helped the audience come up to speed, the film flowed along nicely (meandering at points but puntucated in the "right spots" with flurries of activity) all the while making good use of real-sounding dialog (in parts it echoed actual conversations I've had). I'm not convinced this film is that impressively written, but it presents situations which challenge the characters and the audience to weigh their feelings on some pretty difficult issues in life: not just Anarchy and Nihilism, but friendship, responsiblity and developing as a person.
While most characters as archetypes are joyfully over the top, Johnny Red: the hippie throw-back, Karla: the earnest slut, and Double D: the loveable doofus, you can identify with them because of the situations they find themselves in. In many of the scenes you end up wondering, "Oh crap, what would I do then?"
This Anarchist Cookbook is a well thought out film. All too often you'll find films which leave something hanging, resolve it, then find something new to leave hanging only to resolve later and repeat the process. Then there's films which leave everything hanging and tie (or attempt to tie) it all together at the end. Watching the Anarchist's Cookbook I saw things left hanging all the time, I had to wonder if something mattered at all, and the movie tied up loose ends at it's own pace all throughout. It started out simple (with narration is about as simple as you can start - they even employ the dictionary a couple times) and braided itself together, occasionally ripping itself apart a bit, only to weave back together later. Throughout the whole film, things are being resolved, left open, and brought back up. There are revelations of varying degrees in every scene that left me wondering, where are they going to go after this - like life, this film is quite willing to keep moving, with or without you coming along. Not that you can't catch up later.
There's an incredibly fun scene in a coffee shop: the pacing of this particular scene is one of the flurry moments I mentioned. It's a well filmed scene (you didn't think the mess on a coffee bar could make for some interesting footage?), it's well timed, and the actors really show their chemistry. At that point the main character, Puck, his best friend Double D, and the audience could use a jovial moment - what's more jovial then running amuck behind the espresso bar?
The movie can't really be called a comedy (though it is very funny) and it can't really be called a drama (but there is plenty of that). Even in the serious moments, as the characters make choices that would, in many other films be the "one big choice" of the film. The Anarchist's Cookbook seems doesn't seem terribly concerned about making one big statement, instead, after establishing the characters, pushes them into a situation and tests their reaction. Sometimes it's their lack of reaction that makes the point
Go see this film. You'll leave wondering why it can be so easy to follow, so hard to lead, so easy to lose sight of what you believe in, and so worth it to find it again.
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