Southland Tales Devolves Into Artistic Apocalypse

Illustration for article titled Southland Tales Devolves Into Artistic Apocalypse

Southland Tales was eagerly anticpated by fans who loved director Richard Kelly's cult hit Donnie Darko, but. But the weird movie that blended musical comedy with post-apocalyptic LA is getting raked across the coals by reviewers. Kelly was able to sign up talent like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Seann William Scott and Justin Timberlake, but even this A-list Oscar crowd of thespians couldn't save the flick from itself.

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The main problem is that this movie has been a lame duck in the movie pond, trying to paddle for shore ever since the Cannes Film Festival. Kelly rushed the film into competition there, even though it "wasn't finished," and it got savaged by the critics as a result. Most people who saw it had no idea what was happening with the story, and even The Rock had trouble following along. You know your film is in trouble when braniac former pro-wrestlers lose the plot. Kelly vowed to finish (and fix) the film, adding over 100 visual effects, trimming scenes and having J.T. re-record his voiceover track. Did any of this work help?

L Magazine's film critic Michael Joshua Rowin had a real soft spot for it, saying "Here it is, at last: the worst film of the year." Even New York Times film critic Mahnola Dargis, who seems to be one of the few loners who enjoyed the film to some degree, calls it "messy" Granted, Donnie Darko was called messy and confusing in plenty of reviews when it came out, but it didn't have the albatross of bad Cannes reviews hanging around its neck when it was released. Southland Tales does have that albatross, and these reviews are pulling it under like an anchor. The film is playing in limited release right now, which means if you're near New York or Los Angeles you might have a chance of seeing it, but if you live elsewhere you'll have to pray for a DVD release. With reviews like this, you won't have to wait long.

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Review: Southland Tales spins nonsense [AP]
More on Southland Tales [GreenCine Daily]

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DISCUSSION

Just finished the DVD version - I confess, I rented it based on the the strength of the Rundown, and the promise of a Rock/Stifler reunion. I lacked even a general idea of what to expect going in, and spent most of the movie trying to figure out what the hell was going on. Some excellent SF elements - there is a tidal power station that provides wireless power by empowering quantum particles that are entangled with others onshore, providing limitless wireless power, among other mind-bending ideas. One of the biggest weaknesses I found though, was the actors seeming lack of conviction. The Rock in particular didn't seem to know how to play it, but the entirety of the very cool cast seemed vaguely lost. The last 20 minutes provide some explanations for the sprawling plot, but its not enough to rescue this beautiful mess.