Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Naked Lunch

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! I watched Naked Lunch while enjoying a naked burrito Qdoba while being naked...I didn't even come close to finishing the movie before the screams started and I was kicked out.

Naked Lunch – 3 out of 5

A stone’s throw away from this post, I talked about revisiting one of my least favorite David Cronenberg films; eXistenZ.  I talked about how I was mildly interested in it when I first watched it in college and watching it now as someone who is legally recognized as an adult but my vast collection of action figures and LEGO sets states that mentally I am otherwise has changed my opinion of it…although very slightly.  Since I watched that one, I decided to go back and watch a Cronenberg film I never finished.  Not long after first watching eXistenZ in college, I started Naked Lunch but never finished it—I can’t remember why I never finished it.  It wasn’t like I was hating it so I am going to assume it had something to do with saving the world and dancing on large piles of cash.  So, anyway, after all those years I’ve decided to come back to the one I never finished…

It can't be because Nicholas Campbell is in the film...I love that guy.

Looks at those glasses!  More like RoboNerd!
It’s really hard to describe the plot to Naked Lunch because it is one of David Cronenberg’s most fucked up films.  Loosely based on the William S. Burroughs novel of the same name and some of the events in Burroughs’ actual life, the film tells a story of the bug exterminator, Bill Lee (Peter Weller), who ends up tripping balls on the product used to kill the bugs.  This trip and growing addiction causes Lee to hallucinate badly and he starts to believe that he is being contacted by large bugs and aliens and both of them are asking him to do some absolutely fucked up shit like kill his wife.  The hallucinations lead him across the globe where he meets a doppelgänger of his wife and that is only the beginning of how strange this rabbit hole gets.

"Dead or alive,'re coming with me."

The first thing that always comes to mind with Naked Lunch was the joke in The Simpsons where Bart gets a fake ID and he takes his friends into an R-rated movie and it just so happens to be this film.  When they walk out, Nelson Muntz states that there are two things wrong with the title.  It’s an amusing moment and a moment that shows that despite how unfunny The Simpsons has become it’s still a huge part of pop culture and almost impossible to not reference.  I also first saw this scene long before I ever actually got to see the movie and, now that I have experienced it, I kinda feel Nelson’s pain.

Typewriters seem to get erections...thanks for the nightmare fuel, Naked Lunch.

I didn’t think Naked Lunch was a bad movie—it’s just weird as fuck.  Don’t get me wrong; I like strange films that make me feel like I’m tripping without taking drugs or make me paranoid that there is a gas leak in the house and I didn’t realize it until it was too late and the TV was playing tricks on my mind but this film takes the cake.  The movie feels like a mixture of a cheesy B-movie sci-fi tale (you know, the part with the aliens and the big bugs), a little bit of detective fiction thrown in (the music and the costumes really bring this part home), and a little bit of David Lynch’s Eraserhead thrown in.

In all likelihood, this is the baby from Eraserhead all grown up.

While I enjoyed the film and thought it was fucked up but interesting at the same time, the chances of me ever watching this one again are slim…unless I decide that I’m going to start taking hallucinogens and I really want to have the worst trip of my life.  However, even though I will, most likely, never view this film again, I have to say that my favorite thing about the movie was the performance from Peter Weller.

"Anyone else hear 'All Along the Watchtower" in the walls?"

There are some great performances in this WTF tale from the likes of Judy Davis, Ian Holm, Julian Sands, and a really fun performance from Roy Schieder but Weller is so captivating to watch.  There’s an off-kilter but totally sound level about him as he plays Bill Lee.  Lee knows he is hallucinating most of the time but will still be consumed with the hallucinations and treat them like reality.  That isn’t an easy balance to pull off but Weller does it.  Even more interesting about his performance is how he is not only looking like he understands but is confused by the hallucinations but is also completely numb to the path he suddenly finds his life going down.  There’s a scene that stuck out with me where Lee sits down at the counter of an eatery and he is being talked about by Ian Holm’s character.  Lee is clearly burned out and all he does is slowly turn around with a pretzel in his mouth, slowly makes eye contact, and then bites the pretzel.  I know it sounds strange but that single scene—one that could easily be passed by—really showed (and without words) the strain that Lee’s character is going through and really shows how Weller is giving a very subdued but great performance.

"These pretzels are making me thirsty."

One thing that was a little…off…about this film was the use of the word “fag” as it pertains to homosexuality.  The early 90s were still a time where the use of “fag” and “faggot” were considered okay and didn't have the same stigma it has now and, even keeping this in mind, it’s still strange to watch this unfold due to how many steps our society has made with homosexuality.

And yet when I try to walk like this with my friend he looks at me like
I'm crazy.

It's a David Cronenberg film...of course the bug's
mouth looks like a butthole.
Even with the use of that horrible word Naked Lunch is very interesting due to just how absolutely strange it is.  Cronenberg does a great job of handling the fact that Lee is involved with the hallucinations and will show us both what is not happening and what is—however, he also is able to make the film very ambiguous and even though we get a small sense of what is real and isn’t, we still don’t clearly know everything or fully what the fuck is going on.  And, of course, it wouldn’t be a Cronenberg film without some body horror elements and that shit is played up in spades with the bug’s mouth that looks like an asshole, weird penis-like appendages on the aliens’ head, and a scene that looks like it was lifted out of John Carpenter’s The Thing.

Quick, someone call Kurt Russell!

So that's why we stopped using typewriters!
I dig Peter Weller’s performance, I dig Cronenberg’s direction and the way he adapted the book, and I dig the strangeness of NakedLunch.
  However, I think it might have been too strange for its own good as there is no lasting impact with me after watching it beyond just saying it was good (and saying its strange, too).  Sure, I will say the puppetry and animatronics on the bugs and aliens were very good and Peter Weller is giving off a killer performance but these are overshadowed by the “What the hell?” factor this film keeps throwing at you.  Additionally, unlike a lot of other strange movies that gives you the “Ah-ha!” moment at the end that shows you that all the weirdness had a purpose, this film gives you a more ambiguous ending that shows you that Lee’s journey isn’t anywhere near complete.  The ending suggests that Lee has a lot more weird fuckery to go through and we just aren't going to see it because here comes the credits.  While I admit the ending works for what the entire product that Naked Lunch is, it just assisted in making this film a “give ‘er a shot,” one-time viewing picture for me.

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