August 15, 2010
Scott Pilgrim and the new Michael Cera
I had exerted monumental effort to keep my expectations in check for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. The cast, the music, the style, Michael Cera, Edgar Wright--I was getting really excited about this movie, and it would have been easy to walk in expecting (Shaun of the Dead x "Arrested Development"), only to be confronted with (Run Fatboy Run - Year One).
But there was nothing to worry about--this movie is completely wonderful and is the best time I've had in the theater this year (even if the fight scenes get a little samey.) Edgar Wright understands his genres so completely, and is unapologetically of, by, and for his own generation and its pop culture. Even though this movie is about people in their early 20's, the references, music (both the soundtrack and original songs by Beck), clothes, and video game style are a lot more early 90's than 2010. If you're approximately Edgar Wright's age (36) you will totally get this movie, even if you've never read a comic book and haven't played a video game since Zelda.
I have no idea if actual 22 year-olds will like or get it or not. I would guess they would be a little puzzled by love interest Ramona Flowers and her personal style, which is sort of late-80's goth with a touch of early-90's riot grrrl and really has no point of reference to how cool young women in movies dress now. But she made me want to dig out my old boots and A-line miniskirts from college.
All the stuff about relationships, evil exes, and trying against all odds to get that one person who is far cooler than you are to go out with you is universal. As is the realization that, no matter how wronged and heartbroken you may feel, there are also times that you're the heartbreaker asshole.
Which brings me to something else that's great about this movie: Michael Cera gets to play a dick. For the last 6 years or so, Michael Cera has pretty much played variations of George-Michael Bluth: an earnest, sweet kid, socially awkward, a romantic, sort of a loser with sincere intentions. He's so good at it that he's had to play this same role over and over again. Sometime around Juno, this started to get a little tedious.
But in Scott Pilgrim, he's not necessarily the nicest guy in the world. He knows how to play the sweet, sincere puppy-dog type, but sometimes it's an act. Some of the time, Pilgrim is manipulative, selfish, and petulant. He's got a long, unflattering history with the ladies, and he's a little bit of a jerk.
It turns out Michael Cera is great at playing a little bit of a jerk! It was such a relief. It reminds me of that period in the 90's when Hugh Grant played one stammering, awkward, floppy-haired, increasingly annoying romantic after another (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, etc.) Then he did Bridget Jones and About a Boy and played unrepentant pricks in each movie. He was phenomenal. Such a relief to see him break out of his type, and such a surprise to see how good he was at playing selfish assholes, even if they come around by the end.
So hopefully Michael Cera will get more opportunities to embrace his inner jerk.
Note: despite my own love for this movie and the monumental marketing behind it (I think I've seen an interview with Edgar Wright or Michal Cera in every single publication and website I read [good one in The AV Club]) it didn't do that well this weekend at the box office. Everybody's been watching Eat Pray Love and The Expendables. Too bad: I'm willing to bet Scott Pilgrim is a lot more fun and will make you feel much cooler than either of those.
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