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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

Review: Scott Pilgrim Vs The World

You don’t have to be a fan of the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels to appreciate Edgar Wright’s rather brilliant adaptation of the source material for the movie Scott Pilgrim Vs the World. Nor do you have to be a fan of Michael Cera as an actor to appreciate his turn as the title character (in fact, I would suggest that those who complain of being “tired” of Cera or who generally find him to be “one-note” might be very pleasantly surprised by his performance here). Wright, who previously made the terrific zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead, has made a graphic novel adaptation here that is — yes, yes, for what it is, cinephiles — as close to perfect as you could hope to get. It’s pure entertainment, heavy on brilliant colors, fast-cut editing, video game imagery and clever devices, to be sure; but if that’s your thing, you’ll find Scott Pilgrim Vs The World to be a fantastic, frenetic, fun ride.

So, look. This is not an arthouse film, and it’s not a brainy, twisty-turny intellectual thriller like Inception. There’s not a great deal to say about the plot generally, because there isn’t much of one other than this: Scott Pilgrim, 22-year-old bass player in a garage band (SEX-BOB-OMB!), too much of a loser to even afford his own apartment, too hung up on his ex to date a real woman his own age, is dating a high-school student, Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) when he sees and falls instantly in love with the colorfully tressed babe Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).
In order to date the lovely Ramona, though, Scott must first defeat her Seven Evil Exes (not ex-boyfriends, mind you, “exes”). And along the way, true to form for any romantic comedy (which this is underneath its geek-approved glitz and glam), Scott learns some Important Lessons about life, love, and the importance of being earnest in apologizing to those you’ve wronged along the way.
Which isn’t to say that all the flash and razzle dazzle that dominates your attention while you’re watching isn’t cool — it is. Wright takes all the inherent craziness of a graphic novel format and puts it up on the big screen, taking full advantage of all the creative freedom this gives him. The performances are great throughout (and having read a little Scott Pilgrim, seemed very true to the source material to me). I was uncertain about the casting of Cera as Pilgrim, but now that I’ve seen it, I can’t imagine a better casting choice to play the fumbling, romantically insecure young hero.
Kieran Culkin, always game for whatever is asked of him, is charming as Wallace Wells, Pilgrim’s gay roommate — and I have to add here how much I loved that Wright does not for a minute shy away from Wallace’s sexuality, showing Wallace (and Pilgrim, as the extra wheel, as it were) in bed with other guys and even kissing a guy. Being unapologetic about Wallace being gay, not making any bigger a deal out of two guys kissing than you would out of a hetero kiss-moment, is exactly the right tone to take here, even if it will piss off some folks on the religious right.
Cera is backed up by a rock-solid cast: Anna Kendrick, tonally spot-on as Scott’s exasperated sister Stacey (they even look like brother and sister here); Alison Pill (Milk), evoking a tougher, snarkier, drum-playing Velma as Kim, Scott’s bandmate and and passive-aggressively angry ex-girlfriend; Mark Webber as Sex-Bob-Omb frontman Stephen Stills, and Johnny Simmons as Young Neil, Scott’s friend and would-be bassist for the band.
The Evil Exes are great fun to watch as well, although once Jason Schwartzman, of all people, turns up as Gideon, the head of the League of Evil Exes, all the other exes pretty much fall by the wayside. The final battle between Scott and Gideon is, well, as epic as one could hope for a battle like this to be, full of comic-book KA-POWS! and BAM!s and fight moves (Power Up!) that any video game player will instantly recognize and appreciate.
It’s easy to get lost in all the coolness on the screen, dazzled by Scott’s battles with the Evil Exes, which are chock full of video game references for the young folks in the crowd, while still offering enough in the way of the “old school” to appeal to those of us who have, ahem, long since moved out of the 20-something demographic.
But I think those who have criticized this film for being all flash and no substance are getting blinded by the light and missing what’s under the surface. Pause to take a breath and see what’s really going on here, and it quickly becomes evident that beneath all that flash, this story is just an allegory about love and relationships, about what we think about ourselves and what others think about us. It’s a story about a young man in love and, like most love stories, what we get out of that story says as much about us and our own view of relationships as it does about the story itself.
Just about everything in this story, from Ramona to Knives to the Evil Exes to Scott’s friends, is simply holding up a mirror to Scott and reflecting his own insecurities back out him. And likewise, Wright uses the story to hold a mirror up to the audience and lets it reflect back to them what they find in themselves. What this movie is really about, then, is not the the cool special effects or the homage to a graphic novel beloved by its fans, but a sweet, honest, simple story about falling in love, growing up and accepting responsibility for your screw ups, and facing your own demons, in whatever form they may take. That is the heart of Scott Pilgrim that gives it its beat.
Now, if only we could all find a way to “power up” and get a few extra lives in facing and defeating our own inner bad guys …

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon