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LES FRANKEN (Michael Rapaport) leads a painfully unremarkable life as a metermaid until he enrolls in a drug study for an experimental anti-depressant. An unexpected side effect of the drug convinces Les he is developing special powers and must quit his job to answer his new calling in life - Superhero. A very select group of people in life are truly gifted. Special is a movie about everyone else. Written by
I used to dream about flying. It went the same way every night. I realized that I could fly. No that's not quite right, I realized that there was no reason I *couldn't* fly, and after that I'd float off the ground and soar above the city. But I haven't had that dream in a while now. Lately, I dream about more ordinary things, like doing my laundry, or shopping for groceries, or riding on elevators. I wonder why that is?
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What makes us special? Not much, really, especially in the world created in this movie. Michael Rapaport plays Les, a down-on-his luck meter maid (what's the male equivalent of a male maid? A meter dude?) stuck in a dead end life. He's single, lonely, eating gross microwave food and reading a lot of comic books. (That last part got a serious, sideways and long-suffering look from Kathleen.) What guy can't relate? The world Les lives in, and the real world, is bleak. That's why he, and many of us, seek escape in movies and comic books that allow us take part in the hero's journey vicariously. Les is lonely and sadder than most, so he signs up for a clinical trial to test a drug he thinks will give him superpowers. When he starts to manifest powers, he uses them to try and fight crime. But it's highly likely the powers are manifesting only in his mind as the drugs may be forcing a psychotic break.
The movie pits him against a nasty pharmaceutical company and his own demons. What we learn along the way is that the world doesn't need superheroes, we just need people willing to act like superheroes. And as Les indicates early on, that means always getting back up, no matter what bad guys throw at you, or what life throws at you. From asteroids and laser beams to dead end jobs and emotional minefields associated with dating, true bravery is always just getting back up. And the hero's journey though often spiffed up for cultural consumption is really just continuing to trudge forward when every muscle fiber in your body screams to give up.
A couple of things of note. First, clinical trials are not skeezy and there are many oversights and controls to prevent just such abuse. It makes for a fun movie, but outside of the big screen, they are closely monitored. Second, Alexandra Holden as Maggie, an intersecting love interest who is marginally differently-abled, was tremendous.
I greatly enjoyed this movie, and Rapaport, but I may have been conditioned to like it -- I cheerfully admit to reading way to many comics (like Elephantmen and The Boys).
-- www.cowboyandvampire.com --
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