Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Zack and Miri Make a Porno for like 1/3 of the movie.

"Zack and Miri Make a Porno" is just about the most conservative imagining of two people making a fuck flick I can think of, but its still pretty funny. Kevin Smith is kind of a dirty talker with a heart of gold, so it is entirely appropriate that his latest film tries to have it both ways: make a porno for the greater good! What will result is financial, romantic, and communal happiness! Raunch for the sake of wholesome, like those romantic novels from the eighteen hundreds that, no matter how scandalous their characters, seem driven to reaffirm the institution of marriage at the end of the book. "Zack and Miri" is to making pornography mainstream what Louisa May Alcott's Little Women is to making women independent. It has no teeth. But, considering the material, that could be for the better. If you know what I mean.



(funny poster, banned in the U.S.)

The film clocks in at 102 minutes, but seems like it could be brought down to 90 minutes just by cutting off the ends of each dangling shot. There are so many single shots of actors talking that it feels like the movie was filmed one line at a time. Weird pacing and gaps of silence make the film feel flat even through the funny parts. "Clerks" had that same flatness to it, but there it was an advantage. Here, with "Zack and Miri," it just seems like none of the actors are in the same room with each other during most conversations. But! Enough of this technical talk! I came for a porno! (Pun!)

...

I said, I came for a porno!

...

Okay, half an hour of the movie goes by, THEN we get to the porno. "Zack and Miri" suffers from the same problem that a lot of horror movies have: they have an interesting premise, but stick to a three act structure that forces them to use the first 30 minutes of the movie for set up (Zack and Miri talk about porno), allocate the interesting part to the second 30 minutes (in this case, filming a porno), then spend the last 30 minutes wrapping things up (happily ever etc). Michel Gondry ran into this same problem in his film about making films, "Be Kind Rewind." The characters, and audience, have the most fun when the film within the film is being made. So why waste an hour doing other things?

Alas, my own review has ended up mimicking this structure, and for that lapse I apologize. I have written promising no teeth and coming and porno talk, but I've spent most of it whining about the film's lack of actual porno. When the porno does arrive, though, things don't really get any more exciting. Everything is still funny, and sweet, and generally defers to a monogamous idea of true love over any employed sexual freedom. The actress keeps her top on, the porn star doesn't. When Zack and Miri finally do it, the camera is no longer the low-budget digi-cam but soft, gleaming and smiling Judy Garland lighting.

Perhaps I shouldn't look to Kevin Smith for a more progressive, tolerant view on pornography in the mainstream. This movie surely doesn't supply it. After all, the characters don't even make their money from distributing their porno. They make it from communal coming-togetherness (not that kind), and then returning to various normal jobs. Come on, really? It's called a money shot for a reason. Make some fucking money off of it.

At first I left the movie thinking that I was maybe more, ah, well-versed in porno than your average movie-goer. But then, I thought, no fucking way. The Apatow generation is the first generation of twenty-somethings that have grown up with easy internet access to swaths, enormous populations of pornography. What the hell else do people do on the internet? This is the audience that smokes a bunch of weed then Googles "Two Girls One Cup" and records themselves reacting to it! Porno isn't just mainstream, it is obviously and readily available absolutely every fucking person on the planet. So, ye supposedly raunchy filmmakers, I send you this request: Make movies that are not just funny, not just interesting on principle, but actually sexy and pornographic. Grow Some Balls. Then don't be ashamed to give them a little doodle-oodle-oo while you're down there.

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