Jeff Smith 2 p.m., Dec. 18
First sign of trouble: the poster for Restless -- which features an adorable shot of our lovers flat on their backs surrounded by a chalk-outline -- has adorned the outside of Reading Cinemas Clairemont Town Square since Christmas, but queries over its release date were met with shrugged shoulders.
The second harbinger of doom was foretold by the name above the title. Director Gus Van Sant came out swinging. His second feature, Drugstore Cowboy, stands as one of the few drug films that doesn't end in reformation or with a wagging finger. Instead of telling us to "just say no," the film questions what it is about people that makes them want to get high in the first place.
As if a shot-by-shot purloining of Psycho weren't contemptible enough, he has since gone on to forge a career following young men from behind with a camera and delivering Milk by-product.
Now it's death-obsessed boy meets terminally ill girl as sulking Enoch (Henry Hopper) and pixyish Annabelle (Mia Wasikowska) hook up at a stranger’s funeral and fall in love.
I can hear the somber tones of the trailer voice-over: “Bayside faces losing one of its own when Slater learns Kelly has only three months to live. Academy Award-nominated Gus Van Sant directs this special episode of Saved by the Bell."
Or is it Harold and Maudlin? Unlike that gooey paean to euthanasia, Restless doesn't stoop to referencing the Holocaust as a means of further sentimentalizing the already cuddlesome Ruth Gordon. Instead, we're offered images of Nagasaki and the ghost of a dead Kamikaze pilot (Ryo Kase) who plays "Harvey" to Enoch's Elwood P. Dowd. And not unlike Ali McGraw's character in Love Story, the closer Anabelle (who has more wardrobe changes than Dietrich) gets to doom, the prettier she becomes.
Screenwriter Jason Lew stocks his dead pond with too many moribund metaphors. As if timed to the second, Annabelle waits to remove her hat and reveal her shortly-cropped hair until the word "cancer" is spoken. There's a picture of a dying songbird. The couple's first official date takes place in a hospital morgue. Instead of Parcheesi, the twosome apply tweezers to plastic body parts, hoping not to light up the patient's red nose while in mid-"Operation."
Here's a moment that's even more hackneyed than the detailed attention paid to romanticizing the cashing-in of one's chips at such a tender age. No matter what the movie, every time a character, generally one seated on a park bench with pencil and sketchpad in hand, is asked to reveal their work-in-progress they shyly reply, "It's not very good." For once, I'd like to see someone hold their pad up high and proclaim, "Not bad, huh?"
Death permeates this film like nuclear radiation did the cast of The Conqueror. While nothing is quite as funny as watching John Wayne play Genghis Khan, try tapping into the mawkish, inadvertent hilarity of Restless. Like me, you’ll be rooting for the brain tumor. If not, you're in for 91 minutes of restless leg syndrome.
Reader Rating: Zero Stars
Love means never having to say you're dead.
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- San Diego Film Festival to Host Gus Van Sant Retrospective — June 14, 2012
- The Ten Worst Films of 2011 — Dec. 27, 2011
- The Way It Was — Feb. 20, 2008
- Dead Men Walking — June 30, 2005