Benjamin, home-schooled by his eccentric mother, is a loner whose passion for writing leads him on an journey as his story first gets ripped off by the legendary fantasy novelist, Ronald Chevalier, and then is adapted into a disastrous movie by the small town's most prolific homespun filmmaker. Written by
Fox Searchlight Pictures
An Instant Classic That Is Much More Than The Sum Of Its Parts
I saw this movie last night at a sneak preview in Jared Hess' home city. It totally ruled. It was full of laugh-out-loud scenes, with comedy on every level, excellent performances, and a sneaky plot that Scorsese would have been proud of. Everyone in the audience seemed to love it, lingering to cite scenes to each other long after the film was over. Even the press seemed genuinely giddy to be there.
Everyone who follows comedy knows what a big hit Napoleon Dynamite was, and although Nacho Libre was extremely funny, it lacked some of the kitschy style that made Napoleon more than just a comedy. Gentlemen Broncos seems to be the calculated result of a wise decision to return to form. If Napoleon Dynamite has nerds, Gentlemen Broncos has Supernerds; if Napoleon Dynamite has touches of the 70's and 80's, Gentlemen Broncos has dropped you off and left you there.
Like the best Wes Anderson films, Hess has the ability to identify and isolate a lovably weird segment of our society and walk right on that line for the duration of his films. In this case, it's the soul-drying, bad sci-fi stories that I used to see when I was a kid but don't anymore. The lone, laser-gun-wielding hero standing on a world with three moons and a tight, lit-up grid pattern for ground; the farming space station that's been overrun by cyborg apes; the space worm; etc. The kind of bad stories that couldn't even merit a hardback release, let alone a movie and now can't even be found new. Capturing that odd energy and riffing a clear story on top of it earns Hess bonus points right off the bat.
He also has a gift for making good actors great at being bad, on purpose. Mike White has never been even nearly as hilarious as he was in this film (watch out for snakes), Jennifer Coolidge was in top form (as usual), and Sam Rockwell got all the way on board with a career burning phoenix of comedy that covered the polar ends of the spectrum. And because Hess pays special attention to each character, Hector Jiminez and Halley Feiffer are given equal opportunity to steal the show, and turn hilarious performances.
Now let's start a new paragraph. Shame on whoever dissed this movie before I had a chance to get here you shall fall into the pit which you dig, because you seem to have forgotten one important detail: Jemaine Clement is in this movie. You can't give anything with Jemaine Clement in it one freakin' star. It's against the laws of physics. And when people see that you've done that, they'll only question whether you really even saw this movie at all. One of the funniest people alive, Jemaine Clement (of Flight of the Conchords) reproves his very real character-acting abilities, swanning over the film in full form as a tightly wound, bad-jeans-wearing, writer-bearded egomaniac who is so cheesy that you can smell the leather conditioner coming out of the screen. He was the obvious heir to the throne, for the whole show, and turns in what I think is his best performance so far, by far- which is really far. He's a full-blown comedic genius, and still seems to have been able to go even further under the direction of Jared Hess.
But the real satisfaction ends up coming from Hess knowing to place Michael Angarano right up front to show everyone what he can do. Clement is no surprise, when his greatness comes through- that's just normal. But to watch Angarano hang ten on his own terms, through his own scenes, was magnificent.
I caught Michael Angarano in several films, starting with Seabiscuit. But it was in the family favorite "Sky High" that I noticed how well he was starting to do subtle comedy as a farce's underdog, a'la Ben Stiller. Apparently Hess noticed him long before that, and was able to capitalize on Angarano's rising talent, to have it perfectly coincide with Gentlemen Broncos. He builds up the pain in Angarano's character so smoothly and steadily, that when he finally explodes it's about as pressured as Travis the Taxi Driver. Except replace the mohawk with a woman's clownsuit dress and the gun with a bean pillow in the shape of a blonde, mustached tranny. And throughout the wind-up, Michael Angarano plays everything to a tee, walking brow-first above bloodshot eyes, seeming to be struggling to keep down his own intestines at the sight of the limitless tragedies that are happening to him throughout the bulk of the film. He's so likable and well-paced that you just can't believe it either, and can't imagine anything getting any better for him- until he goes off in a blaze of glory.
Now I realize that all of these descriptors may sound like Hess may have sacrificed the inspired randomness of Napoleon Dynamite in order to make a more structured film. But let me console you in saying that, somehow, surrounding this Coen-worthy plot is so much perfect silliness that most people won't even see all of the true plot steps until they come together for a perfect showdown and a winning finale. In fact, the movie is so wild that some will mistake it for trying relying on sophomoric humor, which it sells fresh and hot throughout (when the majority is more intelligent situational and quotable line humor, with which Hess is a born natural). But analyze it honestly, and you'll see that the emotion-based story is top rate in it's rawness and simplicity, like all the best films.
In short, Gentlemen Broncos is just like it's name- a sophisticated, well-dressed animal that kicks naysayers repeatedly in several places. I wish I had the connections to be able to see it again right now. Thank you comedy Gods, for giving us Jared Hess.
55 of 99 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?