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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on Movies: The Sitter

The Sitter (One and a Half Stars)

U.S.; David Gordon Green, 2011

Well, I’ve had it.

After defending David Gordon Green for making Pineapple Express, a controversially violent stoner comedy that I think is well-acted, well-directed and funny, and after sparing some kind words for Green’s and buddy Danny McBride’s medieval four-letter-fest Your Highness, a movie hated by many, I now find myself confronted with this silly ass comedy and harebrained Jonah Hill vehicle The Sitter, a movie that tries to stuff the white-boy car-crash raunch of The Blues Brothers and the paranoid comedy of After Hours into the kids-out-all-night plot of Adventures of Babysitting, and comes up with something just this side of Adventures in Idiocy or maybe Francis the Talking Mule Goes to a Swinger’s Club or maybe Plan 9 from a Night at the Roxbury.

The Sitter is a typical dirty-mouth teen/tween comedy, better looking and better shot than usual, that sends the talented and normally more selective Hill, as Noah, careening around the city in his babysitting client’s stolen minivan, with his three juvenile charges, trying to find some cocaine for his outrageously selfish girlfriend Marisa (Ari Graynor), after being forced to sub for an absent sitter for a neighbor‘s three kids so his single mom Sandy (Jessica Hecht) can go out on a hot date.

Whheeew! Noah, a slacker and college escapee who still lives at home, may be the world‘s most reckless babysitter, and these are the kids from hell. They include Slater (Max Records, of Where the Wild Things Are) who’s gay, or wants to be, Salvadoran foster child Rodrigo (Kevin Hernandez), who likes to smash crockery, and blow up toilets with fireworks, and Blithe (Landry Bender), a heavily made up 8-or 9-year old charmer who comes across as a cross between Margaret O’Brien and the Hollywood Madam and tells Noah he has a hot name, because it comes from the Bible, which is a hot book.

Did we say Noah was reckless? Somehow, he has persuaded himself that it’s okay to steal their daddy’s minivan and take the three kids along on this coke-hunting expedition, though it would make more sense, and be funnier, if he showed a qualm or two. He also takes them to parties with booze, and a black pool hall where Noah out jives the jivers and earns respect with a little improvised Afro-lingo. Then, after some more illegal foolery, he blows up a  jewelry store after stealing some diamonds to pay back the insane coke dealer “Karl-with-a-K” (Sam Rockwell), after dropping and blowing Karl’s cocaine all over the front seat of the minivan.

Meanwhile, Rodrigo keeps wandering around in his pajamas blowing up toilets (Noah never seems to realize there‘s some danger in leaving him alone) and Noah is mistaken for a pedophile and later gives a sexual identity lecture to Slater (whom he predicts will wind up in the entertainment industry, possibly as the author of The Sitter 2), and everybody seems to later forget that Noah robbed and destroyed a jewelry story in front of three witnesses (the kids).


Are you laughing yet? The movie ends happily, when Noah’s jive buddies show up in the nick of time, like Sergeant Rutledge and the Cavalry, to rescue everybody from Karl and his man Julio (J. B. Smoove). Oh damn, I just gave away the ending! Well, sue me. Why are you reading a paragraph tagged “Spoiler Alert” anyway? Trust me: You probably don’t want to waste money on this stinker unless you‘re a Green completist, or a Hill completist, or a Landry Bender completist or a complete nincompoop. And remember, I saw it for free. (I still wanted my money back.)


The Sitter is not badly directed or acted — Hill and Bender and Method Man are all pretty good, and everybody else is at least passable — though it’s horribly written. Some of it is funny. Most of it is not. Overall, it’s a movie so stupid and tasteless, that you feel embarrassed laughing at it. Or maybe you laugh at being embarrassed by it. I’m not sure wich. Or maybe you just wish Green would abandon raunch-comedy for a while and try something else instead: maybe make his own version of his often-mentioned film favorite Deliverance. (He could cast Danny McBride, Seth Rogen, James Franco and Jonah Hill in the Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ronny Cox and Ned Beatty roles. No, scratch that idea.)

The Sitter, by contrast, feels like a movie that might have been written and directed by the three idiots in the seats in the seats in front of you who keep making loud dumb jokes and inappropriate sounds and throwing popcorn all over each other, and who cap the festivities by barfing all over the floor and staggering out singing “Louie, Louie.”

That would be okay, except that one of these three clowns is supposedly David Gordon Green, whose earlier movies George Washington, and All the Real Girls and Snow Angels are terrific indies or little films and whose Pineapple Express was a very funny big-budget comedy. (Judd Apatow’s influence, amybe.) But to tell the truth, I never though Green was going to make a life’s work out of this. I never thought he’d wind up making movies like Topher Grace’s Take Me Home Tonight, much less a movie that makes Take Me Home Tonight look sensible by comparison.

Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s only a movie. But it’s only a bad movie. Other people make bad, dumb movies better — or badder. (And dumber.) Why try to compete? Who’d ever have thought a day would arrive when we’d look back fondly at the good old days of Adventures in Babysitting? (Elisabeth Shue, where are you? Save us!) Or a day when we could actually worry that David Gordon Green might actually sign up to direct Biodome 2 or License to Drive: The Reunion or Dude, Where‘s My Car: The Threelogy? Well, life sure takes some crazy twists. Meanwhile, check out Deuteronomy some time. A hot book, dude. Needs a few fireworks-in-the-john scenes though, to punch it up.

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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