Monday Morning Critic – Interstellar Spoilers – Joe Carnahan’s Stretch … Or How A Dark Comedy Can Illuminate Why Patrick Wilson Is Really The Bizarro Philip Seymour Hoffman

MMC

This week I was going to write on Interstellar some more, which I liked but didn’t love, but I didn’t have anything new to say on it. I did find this on Reddit, so check it out.

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The other choice was why amateur wrestling films are so bad that Foxcatcher might be the best film on the subject by default, but I wrote enough on Stretch that I thought it’d be worthy of a standalone piece. Sometimes you leave it be when you knock out a solid piece of work on a DVD review. Enjoy!

stretch poster

This week’s DVD – Stretch

Stretch had a ton of buzz leading into what was supposed to be a fall release. Joe Carnahan, who’s become a modern day Michael Mann with a pronounced and successful career in television alongside high work in film, is always a lock to get a film into theatres. And this seemed to be something that’d get a quick release into theatres, bomb for a couple weeks but find a rabid following on DVD/Netflix. Stretch looked like that hilarious comedy few would see but would help find an audience via word of mouth, ala Idiocracy. Somehow the film managed to skip theatres and go straight to DVD/Netflix to little fanfare, which is a shame because it’s one of the best films of the year.

Simple premise: Stretch (Patrick Wilson) is a failed actor who’s now a limo driver. He’s got a good friend for a dispatcher (Jessica Alba) and has a major problem. He owes six grand to a bookie to settle a gambling problem … and he’s getting the entire debt called tonight. He doesn’t have a pot to piss in, much less $6,000 to settle up, and has a dilemma. He needs a big payday to save himself from the beating of a lifetime and it doesn’t seem to be in sight until an eccentric billionaire (Chris Pine) parachutes into his life. With the promise of enough money to take care of his debt if he ferries him for the night. It won’t be easy, though, and he’ll have to use a whole lot of smarts, wits and get some exceptional luck if he wants to survive the night.

The one thing that stands out about this film is that this is a pitch black comedy. With enough great cameos out of the blue, including one from David Hasselhoff that’s short but brilliantly uncouth, Stretch works because Carnahan is fearless as a writer/director with this film. He knows that he’s going for a dark comedy and isn’t doing anything to lighten it up. This is a film that walks that line between an R and an NC-17, which would make it a tough sell into theatres. R-rated comedies, especially ones that are incredibly dark, can be a difficult sell and the film’s awful trailers arguably didn’t help.

Carnahan lost a battle with the studio on this one, winding up going to DVD/Netflix instead of theatres, but he still has The Blacklist and State of Affairs to hang his hat on. So let’s not feel all that bad for him.

It’s a shame in some ways because this features a genuinely engaging performance from Patrick Wilson. Stretch is a great role for him, as it allows him to show off some comedic chops, but the key to it is that Carnahan has written the character really well. He’s sympathetic but also a bit of a loser. He’s a man who’s had his problems and has overcome them … but he never made it in the profession he wanted to. He’s now stuck in LA, driving a limo, with not much to his life but a series of regrets. This is a great role as Carnahan has given us a lead character we can like … but he’s a bit of a screw up. We know he’s a loser but he’s not pathetic about it. We can understand why his life stinks … but at the same time we’re not feeling bad for him. It’s an understanding.

Stretch Movie (1)

His life hasn’t turned out like he thought he would and this is a night that could potentially change it. And it’s a great role for Patrick Wilson, who has that Bizarro Philip Seymour Hoffman kind of persona. He’s got the looks of a leading man but has a character actor’s talent and presence, as well as lack of charisma. Based on his appearance alone you’d think he’d be getting groomed to be a leading man … but his career is much more accurately one of a character actor who can occasionally headline a film as a leading man.

He just needs specific types of roles.

Otherwise he’s perfect in supporting parts as the handsome guy of some importance, ala Young Adult, and Stretch is exactly the right part for him to be a leading man. We can see how a guy like Wilson couldn’t make it as an actor and winds up in a career he never imagined he’d have. He has the sad tale of millions who tried to make it in Hollywood, winding up staying and serving the people he thought he’d be, and this is his moment to hopefully step up on one of the craziest nights of his life.

Carnahan and he have some history, as he was the antagonist in The A-Team adaptation, but in this film there’s a magic he brings out of Wilson. I’m not sure how much of the character he wrote with Wilson in mind but this feels like someone Carnahan wrote explicitly with Wilson in mind. You can tell he and Carnahan at a minimum worked on the character together before the film, as both the writer/director and the star feel in tune with each other the entire film. There’s a twinge of honesty from Wilson when Stretch discusses his failed acting career, as well. At moments there’s enough rawness to it that it feels more meta than it does character based.

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Stretch manages to take this, with a brilliantly filthy plot, and mesh it into something incredibly hilarious. That’s the key to making a film about a failed actor work; this is a film about him finally growing into the person he should’ve been all along. Throw in Chris Pine in a glorious, image shattering role and you have all the ingredients of one of the more subversive films of the year.

And that’s what this film feels like: subversive. There are enough brilliant little moments in this film that it adds up to something magical. I haven’t laughed this hard in a long time. You will too. It’s on Netflix and is cheap on DVD, therefore you have no excuses.

Strongly recommended.

Stuff for General George S. Pimpage, Esq

I wrote on Birdman, which you can read here.

Mike Noyes tackled Interstellar here.

If you want to pimp anything email it to me with a good reason why. It helps to bribe me with stuff, just saying ….

And now on MMC … the funniest scene of the year.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 tall boys of Red Fox and community college co-eds with low standards at the Fox and Hound

Beyond the Lights – An urban version of The Bodyguard apparently.

Skip it – Any variant on The Bodyguard is guaranteed to be awful.

Dumb and Dumber To – Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels are a couple months behind on the mortgage, apparently.

Skip It – The first film is a good, not great, comedy. This … this is a big pile of “cashing a big ass paycheck, maybe for the last time” sort of crap.

Foxcatcher (In Limited Release) – The true story of John du Pont and the Schultz brothers, arguably America’s greatest brother wrestling combination. Hint: this isn’t going to end well.

See it – It’s been getting insane buzz and we’re looking at potentially having to refer to Channing Tatum as “Academy Award Winner” in something like Magic Mike 5: Assault On Thong Island.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .

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