Eye For Film >> Movies >> What Is It? (2005) Film Review
What Is It?
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
So, what is it?
What it definitely represents is a labour of love for Crispin Glover (Back To The Future, Charlie's Angels), who has had this work in progress for the last 10 years. And so it finally debuted at Sundance 2005 in a midnight slot befitting its extremely adult content.
But, what is it about?
A good question and one I am unable to answer. The press release says it is "the adventures of a young man whose principal interests are snails, salt, a pipe, and how to get home, as tormented by a hubristic racist inner psyche". None the wiser? Don't worry, watching the film won't help, either.
The cast largely comprises Down's syndrome and disabled actors and has only the most tenuous of plotlines, concerning one of the boys, who has a penchant for tipping salt on snails (shudder).
In the midst of mayhem, including snail death, sock puppets and masturbatory sequences, involving an actor with cerebral palsy, sits Crispin in a large fur coat, overseeing it all from a throne. Not sure if he is supposed to be the racist inner psyche, but much of the film is an embodiment of hubris.
The press release insists that the film is not about Down's syndrome and, for a large part, I suppose that's true, but can you really divorce the fact that so many of the actors have Down's syndrome from your interpretation of the film? If Glover had said that, in some way, it is about the nature of disability, I would have been happier. But if it's not about Down's syndrome, or intended to challenge the audience's viewpoint, why cast these particular actors?
I shouldn't give the impression that this is a po-faced film. Far from it. There are several very funny interludes and the imagery used is certainly interesting. Comparisons will doubtless be drawn with Bunuel, if only because of the demise of a snail at the blade of a razor, but I think that will only stem from critics' desire to equate it to something they have seen.
It is different, it is surreal, but is it good?
On balance I would say, not really, for the casting reasons outlined above, although it can be clever - and, boy, does it know it!
Whether he likes it or not, the end result feels faintly exploitative. Just because you operate a policy of equal opportunities, offending everyone does not let you off the hook. It isn't the blatant affronts - the aspects aimed to shock - that upset me, but the fact that the film lacks heart.
If the emperor looks like he's naked, the chances are that he really is wearing no clothes.Reviewed on: 30 Jan 2005
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