Movie 43, revisited

I finally got around to seeing Movie 43, the puerile and unsettling sketch format comedy that opened last year to nearly universal hatred and condemnation (it scored 4% on Rotten Tomatoes, out of a possible 100%).

One thing that makes this unique film intriguing is its cast, which includes Anna Faris, Bobby Cannavale, Chloë Grace Moretz, Dennis Quaid, Elizabeth Banks, Emma Stone, Greg Kinnear, Halle Berry, Hugh Jackman, Justin Long, Kate Bosworth, Kate Winslet, Kieran Culkin, Kristen Bell, Liev Schreiber, Naomi Watts, Richard Gere, Seann William Scott, Seth MacFarlane, Stephen Merchant and Uma Thurman, among others.

I found the movie to be deeply offensive, highly disturbing, and completely wonderful. On the surface it seems to be a study in tastelessness, pure and simple. But if you scratch that surface, it’s not simple at all.

The movie has as its real target our American concept of ourselves as a culture of freedom and personal empowerment. In nearly every sketch, the spotlight is turned to the lie behind that presumption. We are actually — like most cultures — highly constrained by rigidly defined social conventions.

Yet unlike, say, the British, in America we like to pretend that we do not have a culture of envy, of obsessive one-upmanship, of petty acquisitiveness, of defining ourselves against a rigorously defined norm. In short, we are hypocrites.

This film punctures those hypocrisies one at a time, with a knife that is simultaneously blunt and deadly sharp. Given the ugly and weirdly self-righteous “burn the witch” mania I witnessed in the last week or so against Brian Williams, it’s refreshing to see a movie pointing out what should be obvious: We are all liars, and we are all fools. Our culture demands it — no, requires it.

How could such a film not be universally hated?

Happy Valentine’s Day. 🙂

2 thoughts on “Movie 43, revisited”

  1. Unfortunately much of that list of faults is exactly what America is famous for in much of the rest of the world. In the UK we are supposed to have a class structure, but outside of the extremes of the ultra posh and the very poorest, there is excellent social mobility and a culture of fairness. By contrast, what we see on many American shows is some Americans looking down on other Americans because of some racial or class divide.

  2. I partly agree. It’s not that there isn’t social mobility in the U.S. — there is actually quite a bit of social mobility — it’s more that the barriers that do exist are not openly acknowledged.

    In England you have the advantage of having conscious awareness of the issue of social class, and therefore you can have an open conversation about it. In the U.S. it’s much more difficult to have that conversation.

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