It's Not That Easy Being Green, or a Rock Star: The Runaways, Green Zone & Greenberg

Posted by Charles Reece, March 21, 2010 10:11pm | Post a Comment

I saw three films this weekend, each in its own way a study in the obvious. The Runaways is probably the best (a surprise to me), but in the end it wasn't as juicy as some of the better Behind the Music episodes on VH1 (e.g., Styx and Pantera). Cherie Currie starts off innocent (ignoring her rape by her twin sister's boyfriend), meets guitarist Joan Jett and their oleaginous tongued producer Kim Fowley, gets seduced by drugs and the rock and roll lifestyle, then burns out. The narrative borders on incompetence (amazingly, given the well-worn string of clichés) and leaves out most of the best stuff from the documentary Edgeplay, but as a series of videos involving teenaged sex set to good music with some saucy theorizing from Fowley, it ain't bad.

I'm a fan of Paul Greengrass' Bloody Sunday and United 93, where, in both films, he used our real world knowledge of the moribund finale to build tragic suspense. In Green Zone, however, he and screenwriter Brian Helgeland assume that the audience has no knowledge of the past 7 years, and that all the discoveries made by Chief Miller (Matt Damon) add up to a suspense thriller. Had the film been made in 2003, it would've been brave, but instead it just plays out like a special ops version of Forest Gump in Iraq, where one guy discovers all the truth behind the war. Miller goes chasing the MacGuffin (here called Magellan, a manufactured source providing a Judith Miller-type reporter with a bunch of phony info), only to discover that the war was started on false pretenses. Spoiler alert! Evidently, there were no WMDs as promised, and thankfully this soldier reveals the whole sordid story to various media outlets via an email. As the Chief says, lie about this, and people will begin to question us when we decide to kill people again in the future. Well, he doesn't quite say that, but that's pretty much the moral of the film. Alternatively, I'd suggest the real world moral is lying works.

An old friend of mine and his ex-wife are both counselors who would talk and talk about their problems. If they didn't have a problem to begin a conversation, they'd discover one by the end. That's pretty much what it's like to sit through a Noah Baumbach movie. He reminds me of what the Grim Reaper said in The Meaning of Life: "Shut up, you American. You Americans, all you do is talk, and talk, and say 'let me tell you something' and 'I just wanna say.' Well, you're dead now, so shut up." Ben Stiller's Greenberg is sort of a less funny version of Larry David's Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm. Larry's our modern day Socrates of the quotidian, whereas Greenberg is yet another asshole cypher through which Baumbach can demonstrate just how "poignant" his concocted miserable worldview is, symbolized (in case you don't get it) by one of those used car lot airmen flailing in the wind. And if you still don't get it, well, there's a couple of tell-all emotional speeches at the end to summarize everything that's gone on before. The film does capture some of LA culture, nevertheless: the obliterative sound of the police chopper in one scene, which is a regular occurrence around 9 pm (right when Lost begins on Tuesdays) and the SUV cutting across a pedestrian's right of way (which has, at various times, caused me to dent a car with my boot, throw a full cup of coffee into a window, or just jump onto the hood of the perp's vehicle -- vigilante justice in the New West).

Relevant Tags

Green Zone (1), The Runaways (5), Greenberg (2)