Film Crit Hulk Smash: ALCOHOL, WITHNAIL AND GARY KING (PART ONE)

Hulk took a little time to ruminate on THE WORLD'S END and now he's ready to discuss it. Join him!

1. THE FIRST CHAPTER

GOING INTO THE WORLD'S END HULK THOUGHT IT WAS FAIR TO EXPECT A FEW THINGS FROM THE THIRD ENTRY IN THE CORNETTO TRILOGY: GENERAL FUNNINESS, SOMETHING THAT CONTAINED THAT SPECIFIC EDGAR-WRIGHT-BRAND OF KINETIC CINEMA, SOMETHING THAT WOULD PUT RELATIONSHIPS AT THE CORE OF ITS STORY, AND, UH, ALL THAT OTHER GOOD STUFF.

... BUT WHAT HULK DID NOT EXPECT WAS ONE OF THE MOST THEMATICALLY COMPLEX MOVIES OF THE YEAR.

LET'S START WITH THE CENTRAL CHARACTER. GARY KING IS MANY THINGS: A ROGUE. A LIAR. A CHEEKY BASTARD. BUT HE IS ALSO THE MAIN PROTAGONIST, THE CHIEF ANTAGONIST, THE MAIN INSTIGATOR OF THE PLOT, AND EVEN THE DIRECT SOURCE OF CONFLICT... NOW, WE COULD SIMPLY CHALK ALL THESE THINGS UP TO JUST BEING A "ROUND CHARACTER" BUT THAT UNDERSELLS BOTH THE COMPLEXITY OF PULLING THAT OFF AND EXACTLY HOW IT ALL PLAYS OUT. YOU SEE, SINCE GARY KING IS ALL THOSE THINGS LISTED ABOVE, IT ACTUALLY RESULTS IN A FILM THAT MAKES THE MAIN CONFLICTS CONSTANTLY FEEL OFF-KILTER AND ULTIMATELY RELY ON WHAT WE CALL "INVERSE DRAMA." MEANING THAT WHICH IS BEING DRAMATICALLY GEARED IN ONE WAY IS ACTUALLY RATCHETING UP ANOTHER CONFLICT OR EVEN MOMENT OF RELEASE. IT IS ESSENTIALLY DRAMA THAT UNDOES OTHER DRAMA. AND THE PROBLEM WITH INVERSE DRAMA IS THAT IT ISN'T ALL THAT EASY TO DIGEST AS A VIEWER. AT ITS BEST, YOU'VE SEEN HAMLET DISPLACE CONFLICTS WITH THE BEST OF THEM. BUT USUALLY YOU SEE INVERSE DRAMA POPULATE THE WORK OF ART FILMS AND STUFF, LIKE, ABBAS KIAROSTAMI OR SOMETHING. YOU RARELY SEE IT IN UPROARIOUS COMEDIES. AND QUITE HONESTLY, HULK THINKS THAT DRAMATIC AND THEMATIC COMPLEXITY MIGHT HAVE THROWN A FEW PEOPLE AT FIRST, HULK INCLUDED.

DON'T GET HULK WRONG. IT GOT LIKE 90% ON RT AND EVERYONE SEEMED TO ENJOY THE FILM AND THAT'S BECAUSE IT'S PRETTY DAMN ENJOYABLE. WHAT HULK IS MORE ADDRESSING ARE THE LINGERING QUESTIONS AND CURIOSITIES MANY SEEMED TO HAVE ABOUT CERTAIN CHOICES IN THE FILM (AGAIN, HULK INCLUDED) AND WHY SOME THINGS GAVE THEM PAUSE.... OH, HOW TO BEST EXPLAIN THIS SENSATION?

THE PRIOR ENTRIES OF THE CORNETTO TRILOGY WORK IN A VERY FORWARD AND INSTANT SENSE. YOU SORT OF GET THE POINT IMMEDIATELY. THEY USE CONVENTIONS OF GENRE AND INTERTWINE THEM WITH CHARACTER EMOTION AND THE PLOTTING IN VERY GETTABLE, DRAMATIC WAYS (WATCH ANY EPISODE OF SPACED TO SEE THE HYPER EXPRESSION OF THIS IDEA). HULK ONCE CALLED IT CINEMATIC AMPLIFICATION. BUT THE WORLD'S END COMES AT ITS SUBJECT MATTER AND THEMES IN A BIT MORE OF AN OBLIQUE WAY. THE FILMMAKERS SEEM TO TAKE AN (OBVIOUSLY PERSONAL) IDEA, BUT IN ORDER TO CORRECTLY EXPRESS THAT IDEA IN CINEMATIC FORM, THEY GO AHEAD AND FORGE A MOVIE THAT SEEMS RATHER UNAFRAID TO BE MESSY IN A CONVENTIONAL SENSE.

BUT AS HULK WILL HOPEFULLY EXPLAIN, IT ALL WORKS TO GREAT THEMATIC AND CATHARTIC PURPOSE.

... IT'S JUST COMPLEX.

2. THE CAVERNOUS GULF

STORYTELLING CAN SOMETIMES THRIVE ON ELEMENTS BEING IN CONTRADICTION.

WE DON'T ACKNOWLEDGE THAT FACT ENOUGH. WE OFTEN TALK ABOUT FILMS HAVING TO WORK IN PERFECT HARMONY. HAVING OUR PLOTS AND CHARACTERS AND DRAMATIC BEATS ALL ACCENTUATE OUR THEMES AND VICE VERSA. BUT AS AN AUDIENCE MEMBER WE HAVE A PROBLEM IN THAT WE HAVE BASE WANTS AND YET ALSO HAVE GREATER INTELLECTUAL NEEDS. SURE, WE WANT HEROES TO SUCCEED AND BE REWARDED AND ALSO WANT THE WICKED TO BE PUNISHED. WE WANT THESE THINGS BECAUSE THE AVERAGE MOVIEGOER IS SO READY TO PLACE THEMSELVES IN THE PLACE OF THE MAIN CHARACTER. SO READY TO EMPATHIZE AND SEE THROUGH THAT PERSPECTIVE. AND AS PART OF THAT, WE INSTINCTIVELY DEMAND THAT EVERYTHING FALLS IN LINE PERFECTLY WITH THE SUBCONSCIOUSLY INGRAINED EXPECTATIONS OF "HOW STORIES WORK." NOW, SOME PEOPLE MISTAKE THOSE EXPECTATIONS FOR THE CONVENTIONS OF THE THREE ACT STRUCTURE (WHICH DOESN'T EXIST) OR A HOST OF DUMB RULES, BUT IT'S MORE THE SUBCONSCIOUS RULES OF CAUSE AND EFFECT. THERE'S A RHYTHM AND INHERENT TRUTH TO THINGS AND WHEN A MOVIE VIOLATES THAT UNSPOKEN CODE OF ETHICS WE REVOLT, FOR WE DEMAND THAT OUR INSTINCTS BE SATED.

AND YET, THE BIGGER PROBLEM IS THAT FOR STORIES TO BE CONSIDERED GOOD WE ALSO ASK THAT THEY BE TRUE. NOT LITERALLY TRUE, BUT PERSONALLY TRUE. THAT THE FILM SPEAK TO US. THAT IT COMMUNICATES SOMETHING WE RECOGNIZE AND VALUE. WE ASK THAT IT NOT VIOLATE THE SANCTITY OF OUR NAKED EMOTIONAL TRANSFERENCE INTO IT, EITHER. AND BECAUSE WE DEMAND ALL THESE THINGS OF OUR ENTERTAINMENT, WE OFTEN SAY THAT GOOD MOVIES "SATISFY US ON ALL LEVELS."

THE PROBLEM IS THAT SOMETIMES MAKING GOOD ART IS ABOUT RECOGNIZING THE CAVERNOUS DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WHAT WE WANT AND WHAT WE NEED. BETWEEN SATISFACTION AND DISAPPOINTMENT. BETWEEN TRUTH AND OUR FANTASY OF WHAT WE WANT THE TRUTH TO BE. AND THUS, TO MAKE GOOD ART YOU SOMETIMES HAVE TO SACRIFICE WANT COMPLETELY. SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO TELL A COLD HARD TRUTH IN A SOBERING WAY THAT CAN IN TURN MAKE THE AUDIENCE REALIZE THAT WHAT THEY WANT IS WRONG. AND SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO MAKE THE AUDIENCE SEE THAT WE'RE TRYING TO PUT A SQUARE PEG IN A ROUND HOLE.

NOW, ALL OF THIS MAY SEEM A LITTLE OVER THE TOP WHEN TALKING ABOUT A FILM AS JOVIAL, ENTERTAINING AND FARCICAL AS THE WORLD'S END, BUT HULK'S JUST TRYING TO ILLUSTRATE A POINT THAT WILL BE OF USE IN THE CONVERSATION GOING FORWARD. BECAUSE AFTER SPENDING A LOT OF TIME WITH THE FILM, AFTER SEEING IT A FEW TIMES WITH CONTINUED CURIOSITY, HULK FEELS THAT MANY OF THE THINGS THAT SEEMED TO GIVE PEOPLE PAUSE WITH THE DRAMATIC EXPERIENCE WERE INDEED PART OF A LARGER MECHANISM, WHERE THE WILLINGNESS TO GO FOR NON-MOVIE CONVENTIONS WERE, IN FACT, COMPLETELY NECESSARY IN ORDER TO MAKE THE POINT.

AFTER ALL, STORYTELLING CAN SOMETIMES THRIVE ON THE CONTRADICTION OF WHAT WE WANT AND WHAT WE NEED.

3. THE STATE OF THE ISSUE

THE PROBLEM WITH ALCOHOLISM, LIKE ANY ADDICTION REALLY, IS THAT IT ISN'T SO MUCH ABOUT THE ALCOHOL ITSELF, AS IT IS ABOUT THE THINGS THAT GO BY THE WAYSIDE. SOON, ALL THOSE OTHER THINGS THAT COMPRISE YOUR LIFE, YOUR GOALS, YOUR HOPES, YOUR DREAMS, MAYBE YOUR JOB AND YOUR FAMILY, WILL START TO DISAPPEAR ONE BY ONE.

SOON, ALL YOU WILL BE LEFT WITH IS ALCOHOL.

BUT BEFORE WE GO ANY FURTHER LET HULK FIRST MAKE AN ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: IT'S REALLY HARD TO SIT HERE AND SPOUT OFF SOME BANAL PLATITUDES LIKE ABOVE. IT MAKES IT SEEM LIKE HULK IS JUST PICKING THEM OFF FROM SLOGAN-IZED SELF-HELP SECTIONS OR SOMETHING. SO PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT THESE PLATITUDES COME MORE FROM A PLACE OF... WELL... PAIN. ALCOHOLISM IS SOMETHING THAT'S A BIT TOO FAMILIAR. WE COULD TALK ABOUT IT ON A LOT OF LEVELS REALLY. THE FIRST IS CULTURAL, FOR IT IS NOT UNCOMMON WHEN GROWING UP IN THE EPICENTER OF BOSTON IRISH CATHOLICISM TO HAVE ALCOHOLISM JUST BE A REGULAR PART OF YOUR LIFE. OH, YOU KNOW THE STEREOTYPE. GOOD OL' BOSTON HOUSING A LITANY OF SALTY SEASIDE ALCOHOLICS, WHO IN TURN JUST KEEP BREEDING AN EVEN YOUNGER LITANY OF ALCOHOLICS. THERE'S SUCH AN INGRAINED STUBBORNNESS TO IT ALL. IT'S LIKE WHEN WAHLBERG TALKS ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS IN THE DEPARTED AND SAYS HIS GIRLFRIEND WILL HAVE TO BE THE ONE TO LEAVE BECAUSE "I'm Irish, I'll deal with something being wrong for the rest of my life." POINT IS, THIS ISN'T SO MUCH ABOUT BEING IRISH (HULK WAS THE WEIRD SCOTTISH ONE GROWING UP) AS IT THE CULTURAL ACCEPTANCE AND PROPAGATION OF CERTAIN BEHAVIORS. IT TURNS A FUNNY LINE IN THE DEPARTED INTO ONE OF THOSE HAUNTINGLY TRUE THINGS. AND IF THAT "SOMETHING WRONG" IS ADDICTION THEN THEY'LL JUST DEAL WITH THAT TOO.

IT'S ALSO FAIR TO MENTION THAT THESE KINDS OF STEREOTYPES ARE DANGEROUS, BUT ONLY BECAUSE THEY PROPAGATE THE MYTH OF "THE SINGULAR REGIONAL PSYCHOLOGY." THERE IS NO SUCH THING. THINK ABOUT ALL THOSE OTHER "FAMILIAR" BRANDS OF ALCOHOLISM WE'VE SEEN IN MOVIES, LIKE THE SOUTHERN ABUSIVE DRUNK, THE MALIBU DRUNKEN MOM, ETC. EVEN IF THOUGH THEY ALL SEEM RATHER DIFFERENT, THE PSYCHOLOGY IS OFTEN THE SAME. THEY ALL CREATE THE SAME PROBLEMS. AND THUS, THESE STEREOTYPES APPEAR TO BE VERY, VERY REAL. THEY BECOME PEOPLE'S DAILY REALITY... AND DAILY OBSTACLES. AND WHEN A CULTURE GIVES TACIT PERMISSION, WHEN CERTAIN SOCIETAL FACTORS CONTRIBUTE, THEN THOSE STEREOTYPES BECOME SOMETHING INGRAINED INTO THE COMMUNITY IN A VERY, VERY REAL WAY.

FOR EXAMPLE: YOU WERE PROBABLY UNAWARE OF THIS, BUT MASSACHUSETTS (A STATE MOST OUTSIDERS CONFUSE WITH IMAGES OF MARTHA'S VINEYARD, FENWAY PARK AND THE KENNEDYS) ACTUALLY HAS ONE OF THE BIGGEST HEROIN PROBLEMS IN THE COUNTRY.

IF NOT THE BIGGEST. IT'S SORT OF HARD TO MEASURE BECAUSE IT'S GONE UNDERGROUND. WHY MASSACHUSETTS? BECAUSE IT STILL HAS A WORKING CLASS AND SOME OF THE FEW GENUINE WORKING CLASS RESIDENTIAL AREAS LEFT IN THE COUNTRY (WE COULD BE AMAZED AT THIS, BUT A LOT OF IT HAS TO DO WITH GENERATIONAL THROWBACK ATTITUDES, THE SEGREGATION OF THE CITY'S RACIAL POPULATION, AND THE FACT THAT JOBS EXISTED EN MASSE THANKS TO THE ONGOING CONSTRUCTION CASH COW THAT WAS THE BIG DIG). THIS IS COMPLETELY RELEVANT TO DRUG CHOICE BECAUSE WORKING CLASS DRUG CHOICES MANIFEST DIFFERENTLY THAN YOU MIGHT EXPECT. COCAINE COSTS TOO MUCH FOR TOO SHORT A HIGH. AND METH AND CRACK ARE FOR THE POOR. THE FIRST DRUG YOU DO IS ALCOHOL. THEN A FEW SLIPS OF OTHER STUFF. THEN HEROIN. THAT'S THE WORKING CLASS PATH. AND IT'S TRUE. IT STARTED TO CROP UP EVERYWHERE ABOUT A DECADE AND HALF AGO, GREW SLOWLY AND THEN HEROIN DEATHS HAVE BEEN SKYROCKETING IN THE LAST THREE YEARS. GIVEN THE SIMILAR DEMOGRAPHIC SPRAWL AND ECONOMICS INVOLVED, THE BOSTON DYNAMIC IS ACTUALLY NOT UNLIKE WHAT LONDON HAS BEEN FACING FOR DECADES. AGAIN, THIS IS REAL.

TO WIT: LIST ALL THE KIDS YOU PERSONALLY KNOW WHO DIED OF HEROIN OVERDOSES.

HULK BLANKETED 50 PEOPLE HULK KNEW IN CALIFORNIA AND THERE WASN'T A SINGLE ONE. MEANWHILE, HULK CAN'T LIST ALL THE ONES HULK KNEW IN MASSACHUSETTS ON HULK'S FINGERS AND TOES. THE INTENT OF THIS FACT IS NOT TO COMPARE, THE POINT OF THIS IS TALK ABOUT THE REALITY OF ENVIRONMENTS. AND THE ENVIRONMENTS ARE EVERYWHERE. WE CAN TALK ABOUT THE SAME EXACT KIND OF PLIGHT WITH PEOPLE FROM METH CAPITALS. OR GO TALK TO PEOPLE WHO ARE KNEE-DEEP IN DESIGNER DRUG / WEALTHY ENVIRONMENTS. THE POINT OF DOING SO IS MERELY TO CONTEXTUALIZE. TO COMMUNICATE THE REALITIES VS. THE FICTION. BECAUSE WHEN MOST PEOPLE HULK KNOWS THINK OF HEROIN, THEY THINK OF THE WIRE. WHEN HULK THINKS ABOUT HEROIN, HULK THINKS ABOUT HOME AND OLD FACES NOW GONE.

4. THE INNER ADMITTANCE

THIS MAY NOT SEEM TO HAVE MUCH TO DO WITH ALCOHOLISM, BUT HULK WOULD ARGUE THAT IT VERY MUCH DOES. THE MECHANISMS. THE PSYCHOLOGY. THE ENVIRONMENTS. IT'S ALL PART OF A PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE. YOU CAN RECOGNIZE THAT REALNESS IN THE WORLD AROUND YOU. YOU CAN FEEL IT.

FOR INSTANCE, LET'S TALK ABOUT ONE OF THE "FUN" WRINKLES OF LIFE THAT SOME OF YOU MAY HAVE TO DEAL WITH IS WHEN YOU KNOW SOMEONE WITH WHAT IS KNOWN AS "HIGH-FUNCTIONING ALCOHOLISM." THESE ARE OFTEN PEOPLE WITH STARK INTELLIGENCE, WHO UNFORTUNATELY CAN ALSO CONVINCE THEMSELVES THEY GOT IT FIGURED ALL OUT, REGARDLESS OF WHETHER THAT'S ACTUALLY TRUE. THEY SEE THEMSELVES AS HAVING TOTAL CONTROL REGARDLESS OF HOW OUT OF CONTROL IT MIGHT ACTUALLY BE. AND UNFORTUNATELY, THESE ARE OFTEN THE KINDS OF PEOPLE WHO ARE THE MOST RESISTANT TO ADMITTING THE PROBLEM. THEY ARE THE PEOPLE LEAST WILLING TO ADMIT THEY DON'T HAVE CONTROL. THEY ARE THE PEOPLE WHO WILL PROVE THEY CAN FUNCTION WITHOUT IT JUST FINE AND THEN SLIDE RIGHT BACK INTO THE OLD FAMILIAR AND DAMAGING ROUTINES. IT'S SOMETHING FAR MORE INSIDIOUS THAN YOU WOULD THINK. IT BREEDS PEOPLE WHO CAN CREATE ENTIRE LIFESTYLES AROUND FEEDING THEIR PROBLEM AND YET DENYING THEIR PROBLEM. THEY ALWAYS FIND PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE WAYS TO DRINK. AND DRINK. AND IF YOU CROSS THOSE LINES YOU ARE MADE TO FEEL LIKE AN ENEMY, LIKE IT IS YOU WHO HAVE SOMEHOW FAULTED AND GOT IN THE WAY. IT BLURS ALL THE LINES OF SOCIAL-ABILITY AND RELIEF. AND WHEN YOU'VE LIVED SO LONG WITH IT IT WORKS ITS WAY INTO THE FABRIC OF YOUR EXISTENCE.

AND WHEN YOU'RE AWARE OF THAT REALITY IT CREATES ANOTHER INTERESTING DICHOTOMY...

BECAUSE WHEN THIS UNDERSTANDING HAS BEEN PUT IN YOUR BONES, YOU CAN SEE IT EVERYWHERE... EXCEPT YOURSELF. BECAUSE ITS NOT LIKE YOU'RE AN ALCOHOLIC. GOSH NO... AT LEAST YOU DON'T THINK YOU ARE. SURE, YOU CAN DRINK A WEIRD AMOUNT MORE THAN OTHERS. THEN YOU LIE ABOUT HOW MANY DRINKS YOU'VE HAD BECAUSE OTHER PEOPLE WON'T UNDERSTAND HOW YOU COULD. BUT YOU JUST LOVE DRINKING WITH PEOPLE BECAUSE IT MAKES THE SOCIALIZING SO MUCH MORE FUN. YOU THINK IT DOESN'T MATTER BECAUSE YOU'RE A HAPPY AND LOVING DRUNK AND YOU JUST TEND TO TELL YOUR FRIENDS HOW MUCH YOU LOVE THEM AND TRY TO PICK UP THE TAB. MAYBE YOU NOTICE HOW YOU CAN'T SEEM TO GO A SINGLE MEAL OUT WITHOUT A DRINK. YOU HAVE A FEW TOO MANY SICK DAYS FROM DRINKING AND LIE AND SAY YOU ATE SOMETHING. OR HOW WHEN YOU'RE ALONE FOR THE EVENING THE RELIEF OF GETTING A BIG BOTTLE OF WINE, WHISKEY, WHATEVER YOU'RE IN THE MOOD FOR AND YOU PARTY! NO, YOU DON'T PARTY. YOU DRINK BY YOURSELF AND PLAY VIDEO GAMES. YOU THINK ABOUT HOW YOU USED TO TELL ALL THESE CRAZY STORIES OF YOUR INCREDIBLE ABILITY TO DRINK MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF ALCOHOL... AND NOW YOU THINK ABOUT THOSE STORIES AND THEY SEEM SOMEWHAT GHASTLY, MAYBE EVEN INHUMANE. AND THEN YOU THINK ABOUT THE FEW TIMES YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE DRIVEN HOME AND YET YOU TOTALLY DID. THEN YOU ADMIT THAT THAT NUMBER IS MUCH HIGHER THAN YOU LIKE.  BUT EVEN WITH ALL THAT, IT'S NOT LIKE YOU HAVE A PROBLEM. NOT YOU. YOU HAVEN'T LET IT IMPACT YOUR LIFE IN THAT WAY... EVEN IF ALL THESE THINGS THAT WERE THE SAME WARNING SIGNS FOR ALL THE PEOPLE WHO WERE MUCH WORSE THAN YOU... RIGHT?

AND SO YOU THINK LONG AND HARD ABOUT IT. YOU THINK ABOUT ALL THE PEOPLE WHO WENT DOWN THE SAME PATH AND FUCKED IT UP. AND SUDDENLY YOU THINK ABOUT HOW LIFE WOULD PROBABLY BE BETTER IF YOU DIDN'T DRINK. YOU THINK ABOUT HOW YOU'D PROBABLY HAVE A CLEARER HEAD. HOW YOU'D HAVE EVEN MORE TIME TO GET STUFF DONE. YOU IMAGINE THE MONEY YOU'D SAVE AND OTHER THINGS YOU COULD DO... BUT YOU ALSO IMAGINE THAT YOU'D BE MISSING SOMETHING. THAT IT'S REALLY NOT ALL THAT BAD. THAT THERE'S JUST TOO MANY THINGS ON THE GOOD SIDE OF DRINKING. AND SO YOU BARGAIN. BUT WHY WOULDN'T YOU? YOU'VE NEVER CROSSED SOME IMAGINARY, ARBITRARY LINE. YOU'VE NEVER BEEN AS BAD AS THOSE YOU KNOW WITH THE DISEASE. SO YOU MAKE SURE IT ALL READS OKAY, THAT THERE ISN'T ANY AFFRONT... AND THEN IT ALL STARTS AGAIN.  THEN YOU THINK ABOUT IT SOME MORE: WHAT IF THAT DRIVE HOME WENT WRONG? YOU WRESTLE WITH THESE THINGS AND YOU DON'T KNOW IF THERE'S A RIGHT ANSWER.

YOU SIMPLY DON'T KNOW WHAT IS TRUE ANYMORE.

AND WHAT HULK WOULD LIKE TO SUGGEST IS THAT THESE FEELINGS ARE MORE UNIVERSAL THAN YOU COULD POSSIBLY IMAGINE. BELIEVE IT OR NOT, THESE THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS ARE THE SAME FOR THE THOSE WHO DRINK LIGHTLY BUT WITH TROUBLING CONSEQUENCES, THOSE THAT DRINK HEAVY, AND EVEN THE MOST TROUBLED OF ALCOHOLICS. THE PSYCHOLOGY WHEN DEALING WITH THE PROBLEM IS THE SAME, EVEN IF THE TANGIBLE LIFE RESULTS ARE MOST DEFINITELY NOT.

SO... UM... HULK? THAT'S NICE AND ALL BUT WHY THE HELL DID WE NEED A BIG TALK ABOUT DRINKING AND DRUGS, AS WELL AS YOUR WEIRD INDIRECT ADMISSION OF PROBLEMS?

BECAUSE DISCUSSING THAT PSYCHOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT IS ULTIMATELY NECESSARY IN ORDER TO EXAMINE WHY THE WORLD'S END IS THE WAY IT IS.

AND HULK WOULD LIKE TO SUGGEST THAT THE REASON "THE WAY IT IS" SEEMS SO FOREIGN TO A LOT OF AUDIENCE REMEMBERS IS BECAUSE FOR ALL OUR FAMILIARITY WITH DRUGS AND ALCOHOL WE'RE ACTUALLY PRETTY BAD AT RECOGNIZING THE PSYCHOLOGY AND BEHAVIOR OF ADDICTION. THEY DON'T SEE THE WORLD LIKE THAT. THEY ARE OUT OF UNDERSTANDING THE SAME WAY MOST PEOPLE DON'T FULLY UNDERSTAND DEPRESSION. NORMAL SOCIETY REALLY HAS TROUBLE UNDERSTANDING THE IDEA OF ADDICTION BECAUSE IT SO GOES AGAINST THE GRAIN OF OUR NORMAL UNDERSTANDING. AND FOR WHAT WE HAVE TROUBLE RECOGNIZING IN LIFE, HULK ARGUES WE HAVE EVEN MORE TROUBLE RECOGNIZING IN CINEMA.

COMING OUT OF THE INITIAL SCREENING HULK ACTUALLY HEARD A CRITIC SAY "Ugh, why did he want to go finish the pub crawl so bad? I mean I get it, but that's just ridiculous! No one would ever do that!" WELL IF YOU GET IT, THEN YOU CAN'T REALLY HAVE A COMPLAINT AGAINST IT, RIGHT? THEN YOU WOULD EVEN KNOW WHY HE WOULD? BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT FOR HIM: IT'S ALCOHOLISM. YOU HAVE TO HAVE THAT NEXT DRINK. NO MATTER WHAT. NO MATTER IF THE WORLD IS UPENDING. THERE IS ONLY THE DRINK. AND THUS OUR PROTAGONIST / ANTAGONIST / ALL-PURPOSE MAINSTAY, GARY KING, GOES FORWARD FOR THAT DRINK DESPITE ALL PLOT LOGIC OR DRAMATIC NEED. YES, THAT SOLE BIT OF METAPHOR IS PROBABLY RATHER OBVIOUS TO MOST OF YOU, BUT THE IMPORTANT THING IS HOW EVERYTHING HULK WILL TALK ABOUT IN THIS ESSAY IS AN EXTENSION OF THAT LOGIC.

AND THAT LOGIC IS SIMPLE: THERE'S THIS MOMENT IN GET HIM TO THE GREEK WHERE RUSSELL BRAND IS DESPERATELY CRAVING DRUGS AND SENDS JONAH HILL OUT TO GET SOME AND AFTER SOME HIJINKS ENSUE AND JONAH COMES UP SHORT, HE COMES HOME TO FIND THAT RUSSELL HAS ALREADY FOUND THEM ANOTHER WAY. AND RUSSELL, WHILE HIGH, HAS TO EXPLAIN WHY DRUGS AND WHY HE NEEDS THEM:

"You know I used to be sober. When I was sober I was worried about: 'Aw, is this the twilight of my career?' 'Is the mother of my child a cruel, evil, brilliant, savant, idiot genius?' 'Am I bringing up my kid the right way?' Now, I just worry about drugs. Your life's to-do list must be a baffling document. You’re worried about so many things, Aaron. You’re worried about: “Will we get to the show?” “Will I perform well?” “Will you get the credit that you deserve?” Mine has on it but one word. Do you know what that word is?"

... THE WORD IS OBVIOUSLY DRUGS.

SO OF COURSE GARY KING WANTS TO FINISH THE DAMN PUB CRAWL.

IT'S THE ONLY THING ON HIS LIFE'S TO-DO LIST.

5. THE LENS OF WITHNAIL

THE GREAT THING ABOUT MOVIES IS THAT THEY ARE REQUIRED TO HAVE PERSPECTIVE.

THAT'S KIND OF THE MAGIC OF WHAT A FILM CAMERA CAN DO WHEN PAIRED WITH A MOVIE SCREEN. IT BRINGS US INTO A WORLD AND SHOWS THAT WORLD IN A VERY SPECIFIC WAY. IT ALMOST HAS TO BE ITS VERY NATURE. IT BRINGS US INTO A PERSON'S WORLD AND SHOWS AN INHERENTLY SPECIFIC PERSPECTIVE. AND WHEN YOU HAVE THE ABILITY TO DO THAT, YOU CAN DO ANYTHING REALLY. ALL THE FAMILIAR PLATITUDES AND METAPHORS APPLY: YOU CAN WALK A MILE IN ANOTHER MAN'S SHOES. YOU CAN SEE THROUGH ANOTHER PERSON'S EYES. TRULY, YOU CAN SUDDENLY ESCAPE OUT OF YOUR OWN DAMN BRAIN FOR A SECOND AND BE FORCED TO SEE SOMETHING IN A WAY WE RARELY DO: YOU GET TO SEE WITH THE OMNIPOTENCE OF GOD. IT SOUNDS RIDICULOUS, BUT IT'S TRUE. "FORCING" PERSPECTIVE IS INHERENTLY THE MOST POWERFUL TOOL IMAGINABLE. YOU CAN SUPPLANT THE AUDIENCE WITH A WAY OF SEEING, A WAY OF FEELING, THAT IS PERHAPS FAR UNLIKE THEIR OWN. THERE'S A REASON MOVIES ARE USED FOR PROPAGANDA. THERE'S A REASON IT'S WESTERN CULTURAL IMAGERY THAT TOPPLES EMPIRES. THERE'S A REASON MOVIES MAKE US FEEL SO DAMN GOOD. AND SOMETIMES YOU CAN USE THAT FORCED PERSPECTIVE TO SHOW THEM SOMETHING COMPLETELY ALIEN AND WHACKADOODLE.

FOR INSTANCE, YOU CAN SHOW THEM WITHNAIL AND I.

PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT WE ARE ABOUT TO TALK ABOUT ONE OF HULK'S FAVORITE MOVIES EVER. AND NO, IT'S NOT AN APT DEMONSTRATION OF SUPERB BLOCKBUSTER CRAFT, NOR A CAREFUL OR INTRICATE GLIMPSE INTO HUMANE COURAGE, NOR IS IT AN EXAMPLE OF FINELY CRAFTED TRADITIONAL DRAMA. WITHNAIL AND I IS BASICALLY A BOOZY CINEMATIC RIFF ON AN ABSURDIST PLAY IN THE FINE BRITISH TRADITION... UH, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN EXACTLY?

WELL, IT MEANS IT HAS BASICALLY ZERO INTEREST IN PLOT OR ARCS OR ANY OF THAT STUFF. IT'S BASICALLY ALL ABOUT POSTURING IDEAS WITHIN CRAZY, COMEDIC SITUATIONS AND VIGNETTES. HULK COULD SIT HERE AND GET INTO SOME ACADEMIC MINUTIAE FOR ANOTHER 8,000 WORDS, BUT LET'S STICK WITH THE FOLLOWING GENERALIZATION: ABSURDISM, WHILE TECHNICALLY ROOTED IN THE CAVERNOUS GULF OF TRYING TO FIND MEANING IN LIFE (WHERE THERE IS NO MEANING), CAN BASICALLY BE SUMMED UP AS THAT WHICH IS LOGICALLY POSSIBLE, BUT NOT HUMANLY POSSIBLE. DOES THAT MAKE SENSE? IT'S SURREALISM AND OTHER FORMS THAT DEAL WITH THAT WHICH IS ACTUALLY UNREAL, BUT ABSURDISM IS KIND OF LIKE PRESENTING AN INSANE BEHAVIORAL VERSION OF OUR OWN REALITY. AND UNSURPRISINGLY, IT OFTEN TAKES THE FORM OF COMEDY. FOR INSTANCE, THINK OF QUENTIN DUPIEUX'S WORK LIKE RUBBER AND WRONG, WHICH OFTEN DEALS WITH THE ABSURD (BUT NOT ALWAYS). BUT THE COMEDY, WIT AND OBSERVATION ARE ALL GROUNDED IN THE FACT THAT THE CHARACTERS ALWAYS HAVE UNNATURAL, HEIGHTENED, UNEXPECTED REACTIONS TO THINGS. YOU COULD EVEN ARGUE THE WORLD OF RAISING ARIZONA AND A BUNCH OF OTHER COEN MOVIES FLIRT WITH ABSURDISM TO MAKE THEIR POINT.

NOW. HERE'S THE TRAILER FOR WITHNAIL AND I WHICH MIGHT GIVE YOU A SMALL TASTE:

OKAY, THIS MAKES IT SEEM LIKE THESE COULD BE JUST FUNNY MOMENTS IN VERY REAL SITUATIONS, SO LET'S TURN TO GIVE YOU AN IDEA WHAT THE SOCIAL INTERACTIONS ARE LIKE:

AND OF COURSE:

DO YOU SEE HOW IT'S A COMEDIC BEHAVIORAL UNREALITY? GOOD. NOW LET'S ASK THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION OF ALL: "WHAT'S THE POINT OF MAKING A FILM LIKE THIS?"

THE REASON IS IT ALLOWS YOU TO GET AT AN OBJECTIVE TRUTH IN A VERY DIFFERENT WAY THAT ISN'T SO DEPENDENT ON LOGISTICAL REALITY. AND WITHNAIL AND I DOES A REMARKABLE JOB OF BRINGING YOU RIGHT INTO THE RIDICULOUS, PARANOID, UNRELIABLE BRAINS OF THE TWO MAIN CHARACTERS. TWO MAIN CHARACTERS WHO, AS YOU CAN SEE IN THE CLIPS ABOVE, OUR ADDICTS BARELY CAPABLE OF UNDERSTANDING... WELL... MUCH OF ANYTHING THAT HAS TO WITH THEIR SITUATION. VIRTUALLY EVERYTHING THEY TELL THEMSELVES IS A LIE: WHY THEY'RE GOING TO THE COUNTRY. WHY THEY'RE DRINKING. THE REASONS THEY DON'T GET THEIR PARTS. WHY THINGS AREN'T GOING THEIR WAY. WHY THEY DON'T LIKE DEALING WITH CERTAIN PERSONS. WHAT'S WRONG WITH THOSE CERTAIN PERSONS. IT'S ALL LIES. THERE IS VIRTUALLY NO MOMENT IN THE FILM WHERE THEY ACTUALLY HAVE A SOLID GRASP ON ANYTHING AROUND THEM. AND THERE IS NO MOMENT IN THE FILM WHERE THEY DO ANYTHING THAT ISN'T FOR THEIR OWN SELFISH GOOD (PARTICULARLY WHEN DEALING WITH EACH OTHER).

WITHNAIL AND I, FOR ALL ITS COMPLETE ZANY ABSURDISM AND TOTAL UNREALITY, IS A NEAR PERFECT WAY OF SHOWING YOU "THE CINEMATIC PERSPECTIVE OF ADDICTION."

NO, IT'S NOT TRYING TO DRAMATIZE IT. IT'S NOT TRYING TO TELL THE STORY OF ADDICTION. IT'S NOT EVEN TRYING TO GET YOU TO EMPATHIZE. IT'S TRYING TO PUSH YOU AWAY SO YOU CAN SEE IT ALL FOR WHAT IT IS. SO YOU CAN LAUGH AND SEPARATE YOURSELF. SO THAT YOU CAN MAKE THESE STARK, RIDICULOUS OBSERVATIONS THAT JUST MAKE THE TRUTH SO OBVIOUSLY CLEAR... AND THE REASON THIS MATTERS NOT JUST TO ART ITSELF AND IT'S CAPACITIES, BUT BECAUSE THIS TACTIC HAS STRONG CONNECTION TO CERTAIN WAYS THAT THE THE WORLD'S END TELLS IT STORY.

FOR IT ABSOLUTELY USES "THE LENS OF WITHNAIL."

6. THE NEEDED PERFORMANCE

LITERALLY & FIGURATIVELY, IT ALL STARTS AND ENDS WITH GARY KING.

WHICH IS PROBABLY A GOOD THING BECAUSE THIS MIGHT BE SIMON PEGG'S BEST PERFORMANCE. THAT'S NOT SOMETHING HULK SAYS LIGHTLY. HULK UNDERSTANDS THAT SOME OF YOU WILL WANT TO MAKE A JOKE ABOUT COMPARING IT TO SCOTTY OR SOMETHING. OR PERHAPS SOME OF YOU WILL LOOK BACK AND NOTICE THAT A LOT OF HIS ROLES SEEM TO FIT A CERTAIN M.O. OF "DISAFFECTED GEN-XER" OR SOMETHING EQUALLY REDUCTIVE. MAKE WHATEVER COMMENT YOU WANT, BECAUSE JUST AS MANY OF YOU WILL RECOGNIZE THAT PEGG'S CAREER HAS BEEN FILLED WITH SO MANY MOMENTS OF SURPRISING, WHOLLY SIGNIFICANT DEPTH. YOU'LL LIKELY REMEMBER THE DARK, PRACTICAL MOMENT OF FIGURING OUT THE LOGISTICS OF SUICIDE IN SHAUN OF THE DEAD. OR PERHAPS THE TEARFUL BREAKUP WITH HIS FRIEND IN HOT FUZZ. OR PRETTY MUCH THE ENTIRETY OF PATHOS OF TIM BISLEY ON SPACED. HULK ARGUES THE OVERLAP OF THIS AFFECT IS NOT ACCIDENTAL. IT IS THE EVIDENCE OF AN ABSOLUTE SKILL TO SUBVERT A FRONT OF COMEDY WITH HUMANITY.

IT'S ALSO A REALLY POPULAR TACTIC IN DRAMA.

SADLY, IT'S ONE YOU DON'T SEE MUCH LATELY. AT LEAST NOW THAT THE JAMES L. BROOKSIAN SCHOOL OF THOUGHT SEEMS TO HAVE COOLED (YET AGAIN). BUT THE IDEA IS SIMPLE: YOU BUILD UP EFFECT WITH JOKES/LIGHTNESS AND SOLID CORE RELATIONSHIPS AND THEN YOU HIT THEM WITH VERY REAL, HUMAN CONSEQUENCES (AND HOPEFULLY NOT IN A CLOYING WAY). BUT NOW WITH GARY KING, PEGG HAS PUSHED HIS ACTING STYLE INTO COMPLETELY DIFFERENT TERRITORY. HIS M.O. IS  NOW LESS PART OF AN OVERALL DRAMATIC CONSTRUCT FOR THE STORY AND INSTEAD, BECOMES CHARACTER'S MAIN TACTIC FOR DEALING WITH LIFE ITSELF. AND HULK ARGUES THE WAY IN WHICH HE DOES IT IS KIND OF AMAZING, BUT IN ORDER TO PROVE THAT FIRST WE HAVE TO DEFINE THE CRAFT INVOLVED, SO LET'S TALK ABOUT THE LEVELS OF DIFFICULTY IN ACTING!

ON THE FIRST LEVEL OF ACTING YOU BASICALLY LEARN TO SUPPLANT THE AWKWARD STILTED-NESS OF BEING FILMED AND CAN THUS BE "YOURSELF." OR AT LEAST SEEM LIKE A REAL PERSON WHO IS SAYING THINGS. THE HIGHEST PART OF THIS LEVEL IS WHEN YOU CAN EFFECTIVELY BE AN "ON CAMERA PERSONALITY," WHERE YOU ARE YOURSELF BUT IT REALLY DOES WORK AND COMMUNICATE WITH AN AUDIENCE (AND IT DOESN'T REQUIRE A LOT OF DEPTH)... OFTEN THIS ALSO REQUIRES SOME LEVEL OF CHARM. ALSO NOTE: A LOT OF PEOPLE CLAIM PEOPLE LIKE CLOONEY OR PITT WHO JUST "PLAY THEMSELVES" FALL INTO THIS CATEGORY AND THAT'S NOT TRUE AT ALL AND INCREDIBLY DISMISSIVE OF THE SKILL OF ACTING. TO WIT:

ON THE SECOND LEVEL YOU BEGIN TO PROPERLY EMOTE. YOU CAN CONVINCINGLY BE ANGRY ON SCREEN. OR SCARED. OR LUSTFUL. OR WHATEVER IT IS. BUT YOU OFTEN CAN JUST DO THOSE SINGLE ELEMENTS ON A GIVEN MOMENT. STILL, YOU BEGIN TO HAVE THE RANGE OF A WHOLE HUMAN BEING.

ON THE THIRD LEVEL YOU DISCOVER NUANCE. WHAT USED TO BE SHOUTED YOU CAN NOW GET AWAY WITH JUST USING A GLARE (AND OFTEN THE GLARE IS SUPERIOR). IN CINEMA THIS IS INVALUABLE BECAUSE IT ALLOWS FOR CINEMATIC LANGUAGE TO OVERTAKE THE VERBAL ONE.

AND ON THE FOURTH LEVEL YOU DISCOVER THE ABILITY TO MASK. INSTEAD OF COMMUNICATING DIRECTLY, YOU CAN SHOW PSYCHE INSTEAD. YOU CAN SHOW INNER CONFLICT. YOU CAN SHOW THOUGHT. YOU CAN CONVINCINGLY LIE. YOU CAN SHOW A CHARACTER THAT IS INCREDIBLY COMPLEX AND WHOLLY ARTICULATE THAT COMPLEXITY (PLEASE NOTE: THESE KINDS OF PERFORMANCES ALMOST INHERENTLY REQUIRE GREAT WRITING).

THE THING IS THAT PEOPLE RARELY ARE ABLE TO GET TO THAT FOURTH LEVEL. BUT DAMN DOES IT WORK WHEN YOU CAN. LOOK AT OUR BEST ACTORS. MERYL STREEP MIGHT BE THE MASTER OF IT. DAY-LEWIS IS MORE CONSIDERED A CHAMELEON, BUT HE DOES IT SO REMARKABLY WELL TOO. THINK OF GANDOLFINI'S WORK ON THE SOPRANOS, WHERE HE WAS A DINOSAUR OF A BYGONE ERA TRYING TO MAKE SENSE OF THE WORLD AROUND HIM. WATCH CRANSTON ON BREAKING BAD AND YOU SEE HIS MASTER CLASS IN HOW TO CONVINCINGLY MAKE A CHARACTER LIE. THESE ACTORS WORE MASKS AND YET CONVEYED TRUTH. THEY KNEW HOW TO ACT AND SHOWED CONFLICT WITHIN A PERSON'S PSYCHE.

AND WOULDN'T YOU KNOW IT, BUT SIMON PEGG ABSOLUTELY DOES IT WITH GARY KING. WATCH THE FILM AGAIN AND JUST THINK ABOUT THAT FOURTH ELEMENT. YOU'LL SEE IT TOO. HE SPENDS MOST OF THE RUNNING TIME IN A STATE OF OUTRAGEOUS BRAVADO, BUT THINK ABOUT THE WAYS HE IS CONSTANTLY DEFLECTING. LOOK AT THE WAY HE'S LYING. LOOK FOR EVERY SINGLE REACTION HE HAS FOR ALMOST A SPLIT SECOND BEFORE LAUNCHING INTO SOME OBTUSE PUT ON. WATCH THE WAY HE BARGAINS. WHAT THE WAY HE RUNS AND HIDES FROM ANYTHING. HE'S MASKING EVERYTHING HE REALLY FEELS.

AND YET YOU STILL KNOW EXACTLY HOW HE FEELS.

READ PART TWO

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