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Clichéd and more clichéd
Knowing is a film that starts out well, and then in the middle when it begins to head downhill, its prior clichés get highlighted and you think: oh no, it's gonna get worse because I can't excuse all its clichés hereon out.
Nicholas Cage plays a physicist whose son goes to an elementary school about to celebrate its 50th anniversary. This means they're about to open a time capsule stored when the school opened, which contains a very weird note written by a little girl containing seemingly random numbers which Cage finds out predict disasters. I'm gonna leave out the rest, because it never amounts to much. Cage's character lost his wife and you know the script will have him wrestling with ideas of determinism versus chaos, given this plot; he's not a character who has lost a loved one -- he's a name on a script with a convenient back story.
But the real problems with this film are rooted in the script. The setup is good, but as it unfolded, some of the acting got weak because of the bad writing, and the situations got too stuffed with special effects because of bad writing. Often bad special effects, too. And in the end, I was left wondering: How did these aliens predict the future? I must have missed the answer somehow, but I know I didn't miss the preposterous-ness that aliens would send a message to a kid, which gets put into a time capsule, but also, because the kid wigs out, gets finished on a door -- she carves in the numbers, and that door is never replaced in the ensuing 50 years, and conveniently found by Nicolas Cage and buffed down to find the a-ha clue, so Cage's kid could be at his rendezvous point for the aliens. But wait: after all this, the kid still gets a choice to go or not -- free will is alive! I was thinking: Why didn't they just take the kid -- Cage would have voted yes and the kid ain't old enough to vote? Or bring a backup if he opted out? And why would alien beings bother with all this nonsense -- how bout helping us with some technology to avoid being burned alive?
And why -- why write it this way? The movie was interesting for its first 3 reels, it didn't need Armageddon and aliens to keep it interesting. And Proyas' style here is really average; he's not a hack, but the movie is edited and shot in a standard Hollywood fashion, right down to that clichéd score. It was annoying -- orchestral bombast during emotional scenes or tense-note when something was supposed to be scary -- the same pulsing da da - da! you hear in every thriller. Sad.
Also, one last note: Cage's actions in the final scene with his son are very screwy. He finds his son and we understand he's concerned for him; but he never asks where the little girl with him is. This is strange and oft putting. And when she appears, he doesn't embrace her. And when he thinks he's gonna get on the spaceship with the kids, he takes his son's hand, but not the little girl Abby's. In fact, he seems like he's ignoring this poor child about to be whisked away from all that she knows.
He seems oblivious to this child, who the script decided, btw, should not be freaked out even though she's about to get on a spaceship without her mother, who is dead, or as the aliens tell her, OK now. These aliens don't win points for helping out humanity or for honesty -- and why couldn't Cage get on the spaceship, anyway? Wait: Script calls for poignant ending. That explains it.
That was then
In the early 1980's, I attended Leroy D. Feinberg, an elementary school located on Washington Avenue in South Beach (for those not familiar, if you've heard of Ocean Drive, Washington Avenue is one street over). Behind Leroy D. there was a large white building that used to be an adult school; some of our classes were held there. This building was also the set of Porky's. I was too young to see Porky's in the theater had to wait for that all-important late-night cable sneaky-view a staple of teenagers in Generation X. I loved what I saw, but what boy wouldn't? You talk about sex a lot, and show naked girls, any teenage boy is gonna be smiling. And I felt a connection to it because it had been filmed at my school. But recently, for fun, I've been re-watching movies that meant a lot to me as a kid. Some, like Risky Business and The Sure Thing, still hold up. Porky's, though, doesn't hold up, but it is interestingly odd.
First off, they don't make them like this anymore. This kind of unabridged sex urges and casual racism doesn't fly in the PG-13 world. In many ways, these kids' (who bordered on actually being 30 when the movie was filmed!)racial attitudes are both despicable and realistic given they're supposed to be 50's era high schoolers. There's a scene at the beginning where three characters discuss the plan to hire a "N-word" to scare the others in a prank; yeah, two of them scold the southern boy for using the word, but it's a casual scold and then answer, yeah they "got one." Their description of him is even more offensive, right down to his low-level labor-status and gold teeth. There's another scene where two of the kids tell the Jewish kid that, hey they're sorry about the racism of their friend, but he ain't a bad guy and they gotta support him because, you know, he's their bud. The casualness of all this is shocking the film kinda accepts it as correct which it is, given the era the film is representing, but still. This is a comedy and it's bordering on maybe being too accurate in the worst ways.
This doesn't make the movie evil, though. Bob Clark wrote and directed a slice of life film that got the reputation for being the daddy of all high school sex flicks. It is a sex comedy, but I think it's also a 50's era portrait of high school. It's not well rendered on that level, but it is that. And so Clark incorporating racism and casually dealing with it isn't offensive on that level and to be fair to him: In the end, the characters bond with the Jewish kid. He does try to come out on the right side of things.
But the weirdest part of the film? It's acted and shot in a way that the majority of the characters are difficult to distinguish; if you noticed, so far I haven't named any characters, because I can't remember them. Save for Meat or Pee Wee, named for their, um, god-given abilities, it's tough to remember these characters' names. I think that has to do with the big three: the writing, acting, and mainly the direction unlike most films aimed at teenagers, Clark avoids cloying musical interludes, close-ups and punch-line dialogue instead he films group shots with a lot of overlapping speech, offhand jokes, and laughter (have you ever seen so much on screen laughter in a movie? I haven't and I admit, it works it does make a lot of scenes seem funnier, especially the tally-whacker inspection scene). If you think about it, either Clark's techniques here are unexpectedly arty or incompetent and make the film uninvolving on a character level (probably both). It's a slow film, too, with often telegraphed from a mile away jokes that still many times hit, somehow (case in point: the screamer. Who couldn't see the joke coming Clark takes forever to get to it and yet, it does end up getting some chuckles.) Outside of those chuckles, though, what's left for a modern audience to enjoy? Not much. It's a raunchy comedy with a slow pace, little music, and remote, often boring personalities played by actors who look like they're in grad school rather than high school; it contains casual racist and sexist attitudes that are bound to un-funnily offend because they aren't underlined and loudly pronounced bad. The Regan Era was the last time that the 50's could not only be romanticized, but tolerated. That era of segregation and conformity has passed us by, thankfully(it had cool cars, though). Rock n'Roll was a sign, as were the Beats, that something was off in this decade for so many, and no matter how much Regan wanted to paint the 50's as the perfect America, he was bound to fail; nostalgia for this decade worked from the early 70's into the 80's because of all the strife going on, but eventually, I think people realized or remembered a lot of that strife happened because of the 50's way of thinking. Porky's was a Regan Era film thru and thru which ironically, he would have hated. But nowadays, like the 50's itself, it seems racist, sexist, and a little slow.
Excellent non-comedy Sellers
Hoffman is nearly 40 years old now, but still, because of the Sellers name, people judge it as if it is supposed to be a comedy. It's not and was never intended as one. It's a portrait of a middle age man so damaged he can't love anymore, and so tries mightily to indulge in lust with a young girl, but he can't even do that correctly, because like all damaged people he was once a true romantic. Once he gets Mrs. Smith in his home, even though it's palpable he wants her sexually in the worst ways, he attempts to woo her but not sappily; he wants to woo her with a destructive bent that is determined to prove that her love could never be honest since it can't accept anything but facile niceties. He wants to prove his own heart wrong. And if that sounds insane, then the complexity of love must have eluded you; you get old enough, you see how twisted and ugly and naked and needy the human heart really is.
This is not a film with action (as if tons of quick cuts and explosions guarantee interesting). It's a Before Sunset type of film, with lots of interesting dialogue and little in the way of other people or the world intruding. The movie centers on two characters who are drawn to one another based on a deep seated pain. Sellers' Hoffman blackmails Mrs. Smith to spend a week with him -- but as I was watching it, I realized that Mrs. Smith had some pain and doubt in her heart just like Hoffman she's just younger and it hasn't stung as deeply yet; and she must have sent him some signals before the blackmail, because attraction is usually a two way street. She ostensibly is there to save her fiancé from jail time (she and her fiancé and Sellers all work for the same company, but Sellers is an executive who has knowledge of thefts committed by the low-rung employee fiancé) and her terror at first isn't faked she's not a drama character being analyzed, she's a real person who is struggling with guilt at lying to her fiancé and fear at not being able to read Hoffman's emotions. But while her initial reactions and emotions aren't forced, they aren't all there is to her presence here, because her second try to leave reveals something more complex she's trying to convince herself of outrage. Why would she go to all the trouble to dress and find the key to escape only to quit once Sellers sleepwalked her back to bed? She could have waited for him to fall back to sleep soundly he does this easily. And why would she try to leave again anyway, knowing that the same horrible fate for her fiancé was still on the table? Because maybe she's running this time because something inside her, something dim but growing, doesn't want to run.
As the week progresses, Mrs. Smith's frustration intensifies because, as she says, she had prepared herself for the worst things (sexual) and yet, Sellers' Hoffman does not do any of them. She lives in anticipation to get it over with mixed with a need to confirm that Hoffman is a base jerk but that doesn't happen. He has some sweet moments, even though he's a misogynist in the way a single middle-aged man often is, and his insights into the darker nature of women ring correct (but he knows that they're not the whole truth and by trying to make them the whole truth, he's a bigger hypocrite than the female race he's condemning). This all plays out in a series of scenes so well acted by the principals that it should be taught in acting school to show young actors the beauty of subtlety on the big screen. Cusack is pitch perfect as Mrs. Smith and Sellers was never better than he was playing Hoffman and this is high praise because Sellers wasn't just a gifted comedic actor he was one of the best actors of his generation. Like all actors, he was a gun for hire, and he loved the limelight, and this lead to some bad choices. But who else could be Dr. Strangelove, Inspector Clouseau, and Chance Gardener? There's a moment near the end when Mrs. Smith calls him ugly, and the pain of her condemnation flashes over Sellers' whole body, he makes us understand all the sadness of this character in one brief, non-flashy, reaction shot. It's heartbreaking.
It should be noted the direction here is excellent it could have felt like a filmed play, but to me, it didn't. Sex Degrees of Separation and Closer two films I enjoyed, feel like filmed plays to me. Hoffman, even though it uses one locale (Hoffman's apartment) as its primary set, always felt like a movie in and of itself while I was watching it.
My only quibble is the ending. It needed to be darker. And in a movie like this, so predicated on characters and their fates, that would usually kill the experience for me. But it didn't. Because I wished these characters would find some happiness, so I went along with the fantasy, even though I knew the relationship as defined by the rest of the movie could never work.
If you like Sellers, buy this one. If you like quality character driven dramas, buy this one. It's an unjustly forgotten gem.
Natural Born Killers (1994)
Technique versus Experience
This is a tough film for me to rate. On a technical level, as well as a balls-out fearlessness, I'd give this film a 10. It's a masterfully done movie which presents characters whom are cynical, and then proceeds to find secondary and tertiary levels of cynicism in these characters. It's relentless. The only non-cynical people are the killers, Mickey and Mallory.
Is that a problem? I don't think so -- because the film exists in the media consciousness. It's really about the way the media needs cruelty, especially television media --- highlighted by the brilliant flashback of Mallory's family life; instead of drama, Stone presents it as a sitcom with Rodney Dangerfield as the boorish, pedophile dad. The presence of that canned laughter over horrific moments rounded off with punchlines makes you realize how phony and cruel real sitcom behavior is.
But I can't score the film higher than a 5/10, and I think that's because of Stone. He's made some great movies, and Nixon is one of my favorites, but in this film he's probably the best and worst person who could've handled this material. His hallucinatory, multiple film stock and media style he created with JFK is perfect for this movie, and his willingness to blast messages is spot on as well. But that's also why the film is a tough, tough one to sit thru. It's full of blast -- it's loud, it's the loudest film I've ever seen, from the Trent Reznor soundtrack but mostly, from the emotionally dialed up characters and their whirlwind presentations. No character dials down, and I know the media is 24/7 and never shuts up and maybe Stone is relaying that. But a message is one thing, a story is another, and as a story, Natural Born Killers is a lot of noise about ideas and images that can hold for an hour, but are not enough alone to carry a full feature. You need some counterpoint, something beyond the continuous anger and emotional cynicism.
This is a film that is peerless with technique, well acted and well directed, but also, with so little variance in terms of tone and ideas that it becomes a relentless, unpleasant experience. A movie about two psychopaths who get idolized by our culture doesn't scream out for pleasantness, I know, but nevertheless, if a film is so relentlessly unpleasant so as to be nearly impossible to sit thru, then the art of storytelling is amiss. Much to be admired, but awful to be experienced.
Bigger Stronger Faster* (2008)
This is an excellent film
Bigger, stronger, faster is, on the surface, a documentary about steroids; with all the controversy around this subject right now, it's the reason most will want to see the film. But the fact is, the film is an amazing examination and fair critique of American culture -- which it persuasively boils down to: win, screw the costs, win. In America a noble loser is just a loser.
The film also correctly shows that steroid hysteria is part of the war on drugs; steroids have side affects, and should not be abused -- but that is true of 100 percent of drugs. Are steroids, especially anabolic steroids, any worse than so called "supplements" -- which have almost no rules as to safety or efficacy? The science is clear: they're better in terms of results, and probably safer since they're made with higher standards.
Long term effects of steroids have never been studied -- due to legal and ethical considerations. This fact sounds ominous, but consider that SSRI depressants were prescribed to millions without long term knowledge of what they would do to a person's brain.
I don't do steroids -- I am not an athlete of any kind, and don't see any value to them in my life; but after viewing this film, I came away understanding that the hysteria around them is overblown. America outlaws and stigmatizes all kinds of drugs, a lot of the time against scientific facts. Bigger, stronger, faster is an excellent examination of a pious culture which demands only winners, and accepts drug use (alcohol and tobacco) and performance enhancers in various capacities, (i.e. fighter pilots), and yet, wishes to punish professional athletes that get caught playing by the rules which, ironically, means cheating and winning at all costs -- which isn't cheating at all, in the end, since those are the real rules of sport and our society. It's just playing the game.
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Influential but overrated; novel much better
Yes, Bogart's performance is classic, and Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet are terrific -- they usually are. But the film suffers from the production code of the day; Hammett's novel holds up, and the sexual politics of it wasn't allowed to be transferred to the screen (although it could have with better writing -- Casablanca has a lot of dark sex jokes).
The biggest problem with the film is Mary Astor. I don't find her attractive and her performance is mannered and oft putting -- which is a disaster for a femme fatale. In the novel, the character comes across as much prettier and smarter, and the sexual relationship with Spade makes her much more devious; it also makes the love talk at the end and Spade's rejection of Brigid logical. In the film, when this conversation starts, one is left wondering, "What?" These two have barely been on screen together and now there's talk of true love?
One part near the end illustrates the problem with the story as filmed: In the book, when Gutman claims a thousand dollar bill is missing, Spade makes Brigid get naked in the bathroom as he inspects her and her clothes to see if she took it. Brigid protests, but is not modest, and Gutman is surprised that Spade would do this. This scene reinforces Spade's cold demeanor, the sexual relationship between Brigid and Spade, and impresses Gutman with Spade's icy thoroughness. As filmed, Brigid just makes a silent, knowing nod of No, and that's that. The Hayes Code eradicated a key scene, and the writing didn't attempt to find a way to make up for this loss.
If Brigid had been played by a smarter, more seductive actress and the sexual relationship between her and Spade been alluded to, then the dark motivations of the story and Spade's character would be fully realized. As it is, it's a well cast movie (but nearly destroyed by one casting flub, Astor) and influential in terms of character, pace, and camera choices. It may have been the first noir, but that alone doesn't make it a classic. As it is, watching it is more history than enjoyment, while the novel still holds up as well written detective fiction.
Lucky Number Slevin (2006)
This is one of those "screenwriter" movies: It is written from a formula of introducing characters and situations which will be doubled back on in the last reel revealing the twist. It's all about plot, colorful characters (as opposed to characterization) and something violent/or plot driven happening once or twice in each reel. Mood and subtlety it is not about.
Lucky Number Slevin is OK by the above standards. It has too many clichés from Pulp Fiction (main characters discussing movie-references as defining character traits, etc) but it keeps interest as passable entertainment. However, it falls apart when it is revealed to be a revenge drama and the Macguffin of Nick Fisher is shown to be a real person that Slevin's partner (Willis) knocks off because Slevin needs his identity. Apparently Fischer is a gambling loser that no one would miss. But the revenge is based on Slevin's own father being a gambling loser who gets killed by those who believe no one will miss him. Bad irony, huh?
So, we watch a revenge movie that goes to pains to reveal that everyone killed deserved it (except I didn't buy that the Rabbi's gay kid deserved it, but I digress) -- except it never establishes the plot-driver Nick Fisher deserved it. Why not just have him kidnapped? Or have him be a phantom? Killing him makes this a movie full of people who don't deserve revenge. For a movie that cries out look at my screenplay! it should have noticed that some of this doesn't make any sense in a revenge drama. Unless it wasn't meant as a pure revenge drama. But then, what is it?
Chris Carter: Fan abuser
It's not possible to review this film without talking about the history of The X Files, and specifically, its creator, Chris Carter. In the early 90's, Carter caught the attention of a then- younger subculture which adored Sci-Fi and conspiracy theories; the Internet would give this subculture popular mass and the X Files debuted just shy of the first wave of popularization of the World Wide Web.
The show, influenced by Twin Peaks' audaciousness and production values, was a slow- burning hit. It went from low-rated, to cult happening, to the coolest show on television in five years' time. By construction, the show was anthology based, and like The Twilight Zone, it had the up and down nature of anthologies on television it could be great or awful from week to week. But its long running conspiracy-mystery inaccurately described by Carter and his team as a mythology (no modern review of a TV show with a long running mystery leaves out that inaccurate word) was something anthology shows like The Twilight Zone never had and it was fun and cool and damned compelling. Mulder and Scully were two of the best TV characters ever, and the restrained love story between them was an undercurrent driving the show. A simple premise: He believes, she's a skeptic, laid the groundwork for compelling arguments between the two leads which got more playful as the show went along and the romance I'd call it television's best intellectual romance could provide fun sparks even during a lousy episode (and even during the show's prime, there were plenty of bad episodes).
But then Carter, a golden boy at the Fox network, decided to create Millennium; it ran for three seasons, but it didn't run well. Harsh Realm was another ratings failure by Carter.
Maybe it was his failures, maybe it's just the freakin' money, but as the show dragged on past its necessary point, Carter refused to end it. Duchovny reduced his role then left openly telling the press the show should end. Carter added more characters to replace him and carried on he would have carried on without Anderson as Scully if Fox had renewed the show for a tenth season. Thankfully, it didn't, and Duchovny came back for the final episode a two hour mess that used courtroom scenes to explain the conspiracy, which had grown beyond fun-convoluted to ridiculous and note: courtrooms used outside of a legal drama signal laziest writing device known to television. And the conspiracy, in a post 911 world, sounded silly, and Carter, still refusing to end it all left enough doubt at the end of the show's finale for a movie.
And now, we have that movie, and no, it doesn't try to end it all it tries to be a standalone mystery so that way, new fans can be made of The X Files and Carter can make more movies! Chris Carter created one of the best loved, most talked about television series of all time; people loved his show because of the characters and the conspiracy-mystery he sold both out and his audience finally deserted him. This movie doesn't change Carter's legacy i.e., the man who created and destroyed a great show. He's burned the audience too many times with false promises. If we show up, we know he won't end these characters gracefully he'll try to milk us for another dime. He's like a slasher-franchise: No matter how many times the killer gets it at the end, we know if there's enough of an audience, he'll be back! The audience ultimately puts those movies out of their miseries, by refusing to care. And the audience stayed away from this film not because it was all-time bad -- it wasn't bad, per se, it just wasn't feature film worthy; no, the fans stayed away because they don't want Carter to think he has ten movies left in these characters. I am not exaggerating, either. His plan was to replace both Mulder and Scully in the original TV show and carry the conspiracy on for another ten years!
Chris Carter: A man who once got it like no other, and now doesn't have a freakin' clue about anything, least of all his own work and why people liked it. It's sad, but maybe the lousy and indifferent public reaction will convince the money-men that The X Files is over. Carter made us not care.
Quantum of Solace (2008)
Overall, still part of an interesting direction for Bond
OK...I just saw the midnight show preview and I am conflicted.
I'll start with the good:
Craig is awesome as Bond. He wasn't allowed too much humor in this film -- one gets the feeling the makers are self conscious about slipping into the camp style humor that marred late Connery, late Pierce, and all of Roger. But Bond should be witty and sexually sly. Letting Bond have some fun wouldn't necessarily have to be camp. Note to the writers: You don't have to lighten up the story lines, just parts of the story.
As the film progressed, it became clear that the franchise is resurrecting a SPECTRE type of organization -- something for Bond to fight. I don't know if this will continue, but it's working and it gives the villains an added dimension -- you know there's always more to the schemes.
Some critics have lambasted the villain here for not being diabolical enough. Casino Royale established that Bond would not be facing bad guys who want to go into outer space and create a master race. Criticizing the villain for not being camp-bad enough is like criticizing Christopher Nolan for not making Batman lighter and more fun. The series is being truer to Fleming's ideas of Bond. And it's nice to have Felix playing important roles in Bond's missions. Wright is one of the best Felix's yet, and I hope they continue to use him.
Also, the film's plot becomes more involving as it goes along. That was a good thing because:
The bad -- I was afraid it wasn't going to have a plot during the first reel. The criticism of the action scenes is justified; Forster is a talented director, and he may well direct a terrific action picture one day -- but it's obvious he currently is not an action director. Some of the stylistic edits and inter-cutting during the picture are well done. But the big action set pieces are filmed like the Bourne films -- and I hate that style. Time and space and character must be present to make the action suspenseful. Casino Royale did that in spades. Here, the action is discombobulated and that makes the characters involved non-existent. It also makes CGI more noticeable. Casino Royale incorporated CGI in an understated manner, using it to fine tune rather than be center-stage. Bond will never be a CGI action hero -- there will always be a touch of wonderful analog to him, and the producers would do well to remember that action scenes subtly enhanced by CGI are more involving and interesting than ones created mostly or totally from computers; the former serves a story, the latter serves a game console.
The Bourne style of action scenes reminds me of a singer who uses her voice for high notes at every stage during a song; no nuance, no variety, and the impact of her high notes is diminished by the fact there is no contrast. Variety of styles, cuts, shots, and human reaction are all important for action scenes. Just because something is cut in half second shot times doesn't make it exciting.
The Bond girls in the film are not bad -- they don't deserve the advanced negativity I've read. But they aren't great, either. Middle of the pack. They didn't get out of Eva Green's shadow, and this was probably why they got killed in so many reviews. But they're not bad like this: Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist named Christmas Jones. That's perspective.
I love Craig's Bond's coldness and I like the narrative that's building. This is a good film. It recovers from a shaky start and sets up Bond nicely for another outing. I think bringing Campbell back as director would be a positive. And I hope they don't give in and start making the villains campy nut-cases. Also, I hope they keep Wright as Felix and expand his role next time. But for now, QoS will do. A solid if flawed outing, whose positives usually include the new direction taken for Craig's Bond, and that's a good sign for the future.
Edwards and his wife Julie Andrews wanted to make a kiss-off to Hollywood. This is not a bad inspiration for a film. But the result is a muddle.
Edwards can be an uneven director; sometimes he's hilarious, sometimes he's not funny at all (and his Asian caricatures from Breakfast at Tiffany's to this film make me wonder if Edwards understands that playing racial stereotypes without irony is not funny).
In this film, his best and worst are often in the same scene. It's hard to understand what Edwards is condemning because he doesn't put forth a realistic central character or premise (even in 1981, re-shooting a failed film as bad as the one he presents here by putting in sex sex sex wouldn't bring you instant box office).
William Holden and Robert Preston are excellent in the film as old time cynics with a heart. But they're not the central focus of the film -- that would be Mulligan, a funny actor but not one to present the conflicted portrait of a gifted director gone bad. Edwards never takes Mulligan's Felix Farmer's plight seriously -- which undercuts the comedy. Why was his film so bad in the beginning? If he had shown the execs causing the problems, then that would have made Mulligan's actions more plausible -- if not in the realm of realism. Another narrative mistake with Felix, Edwards tells us this was Felix's first failure. Would a multimillionaire successful Hollywood guy with a giant ego go suicidal insane over one failure?
That's the problem. Felix's downfall isn't understandable -- and he appears so inept his previous success isn't understandable; and the loyalty he inspires in Holden and Preston's characters isn't understandable, because we don't see why they'd have affection for Felix as a person or a filmmaker. If we're supposed to feel bad because Felix loses his movie, we don't, because we don't know how a man with so little talent got a 30 million dollar (1981 dollars) budget in the first place.
If Edwards had drawn a realistic Felix character, and cut down on some of the slapstick elements, he might have had a good, if clichéd, Hollywood cautionary tale. Instead, he made a hollow film about a hollow business. In the end, this makes Edwards as bad as the ones he's trying to eviscerate.