Monday, 30 July 2012

Gentleman Broncos

Title: Gentlemen Broncos
Director: Jared Hess
Released: 2009
Staring: Michael Angarano, Jemaine Clement, Héctor Jiménez, Mike White, Sam Rockwell, Jennifer Coolidge, Hailey Feiffer
Plot: Following Benjamin (Angarano) is an aspiring sci-fi writer and eternal loner, whose entry at a writing competition being held at a local fantasy convention, gets ripped off by his hero the legendary (if slightly eccentric) sci-fi writer Chevalier (Clement). Meanwhile Benjamin also has to contend with his equally eccentric fashion designer mother and the town’s most prolific indie film maker Lonnie (Jiménez).

Review: There are directors whom I think I will never understand their appeal and I guess Jared Hess is a prime example of this, for after exploding onto the indie scene with the cult favourite “Napoleon Dynamite”, he made a brief assault on mainstream film making with the underrated “Nacho Libre”, before returning to his indie roots once more with this week’s film in question “Gentleman Broncos” were he continues to peddle his unique brand of awkward humour, in what could easily be considered the spiritual sequel to “Napoleon Dynamite”

Fans of Hess’s previous films might as well start hunting this one down now, seeing how it’s essentially more of the same, which will no doubt raise further groans if your like me and didn’t exactly get what was supposedly so funny about “Napoleon Dynamite”. A movie whose only purpose seemed to be, so that minor celebrities could try and seem slightly hip for listing it in their favourite movies. For myself it was a film with a spattering humorous moments, scattered amongst a cast of truly unlikable and frequently nauseating characters, whom Hess seemed to have little interest in making any more appealing and here’s it’s essentially a case of same song second verse, as he introduces a new set of equally awkward characters living out their lives in small town America, while perhaps he does deserve some credit for at least giving us here a fairly likeable lead character.

Benjamin is a man of few words, as he spends most of the film shifting almost wordlessly from situation to situation and generally struggling to muster any form of emotion beyond comfortably numb or infuriated rage. Still while he might lack any of the admittedly misguided confidence that Napoleon had, he certainly makes up for it with writing talent, as he obsessively writes to escape his humdrum existence, crafting his own hero in the form of Bronco the lead character in his book “Yeast Lords”, an infinitely masculine character who battles evil Cyclops over yeast production and whose adventures are played out as short movie clips at various points of the film with Bronco being played by Sam Rockwell, who honestly embodies this random role, even when he’s playing the transvestite version Brutus who replaces Bronco in Chevalier’s rip off version of the novel “Brutus and Balzaak”, with both versions of the story being essentially what you’d expect one of Hess’s fantasies to be like with flying stag’s, a gonad stealing villain let alone the aforementioned Cyclops which for some reason all look like Bernard Bresslaw’s Cyclops from “Krull”??

Still back in the so called real world of this film, it’s clear that Hess might have been aiming for Chevlier to have been the villain of the film, he is woefully underused here, especially as his workshop scenes at the bizarrely titled “Cletus Fest” were he hands out questionable pearls of writing wisdom to aspiring writers being amongst the strongest scenes we get outside of the Bronco shorts. Still the main problem we have here though is that it is really only in the last thirty minutes that he becomes any kind of threat to Benjamin and even then it’s only as far as a heated exchange. No doubt “Flight of the Concords” fans will no doubt lap up this appearance by Clement, who has along with his role in the equally awkward “Eagle Vs. Shark” has really started to make a career from playing droll characters of questionable moral standards and this is yet another fun character to add to his repertoire, let alone baring a striking resemblance to director Hess.

However what is still not clear to me though is why Hess, seems to have such a fascination with making such unlikable characters, as three films in and his motives for this are none the less clear with the prime offender here being Lonnie, a character who made me want to strange the life out of him every time he appeared on the screen, as every aspect of this character seems designed to either make my skin crawl or just annoy the crap out me, especially with Jiménez who was so much fun in “Nacho Libre” yet just plain horrible here constantly pulling what would by all observations seem to be his best impression of a trout, as every scene with this character is painfully over played, while we also get at the same time our redneck quota is filled by Mike White’s Dusty, who appears as a part guardian angel and part Whitesnake tribute act, while for myself being another skin crawling character, especially when his sole funny moment in the film is when his pet snake decides to take a dump on him, though it is unclear why Hess is so obsessed with characters as greasy as this, especially when they have all the personality of a house brick.

On the more redeeming side of things, Hess has once more compiled a decent soundtrack which see’s Zager & Evan’s “In The Year 2525” making a welcome appearance over the opening and end credits, much like Cher’s “Just Like Jessie James” towards the end of the film, no doubt replacing what would usually be a classic moment to dig out something from the Journey / Jefferson Starship back catalogue, while the majority of the soundtrack is divided between Ray Lynch and John Two-Hawks to impressive results.

While Hess might seem like the kind of director I would normally rave about, especially being a fan of Terry Zwigoff (Ghost World) and Todd Solondz (Welcome To The Dollhouse”, his characterisation lacks any of the quirk charm or smart dialogue and perhaps it’s the overwhelming sense of ordinariness in comparison that these character process, which makes it so grating, especially when it seems like Hess is basing his characters on the weirdo’s you usually find at the bus station. Still if you liked “Napoleon Dynamite” you’re probably going to lap this up, while if you’re like me it’s one probably best avoided, as there as this film proves a point were quirky just becomes plain weird!

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