dir: Terry Zwigoff
[img_assist|nid=1020|title=Do not let your child sit in this man's lap|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=290]
Take up all your misanthropy, your contempt and loathing for the world in general and people specifically, roll it up into a ball and squeeze it till it is diamond hard, and then release it upon the cinema screen in an explosion of orgiastic catharsis. You're still not going to be responsible for an expulsion this ugly, no matter how hard you try.
Willie, as played by Billy Bob Thornton, is possibly one of the vilest creatures ever put to screen. When I think of the most loathsome characters to ever grace a cinema or television screen, he is definitely up there, arm in arm with the Bad Lieutenant (Harvey Keitel), Frank from Blue Velvet (Dennis Hopper), Archibald Cunningham from Rob Roy (Tim Roth) and the right hand of Evil itself, Maria (Julie Andrews) in The Sound of Music. In the hierarchy of evil, he is
one of the darkest fiends. We're talking a Republican level of vileness. We're talking about a level of vileness that makes your mother cry herself to sleep each night over after praying for hours that it not consume you too.
We're talking irredeemably alcoholic, pants-pissing, child-abusing, anal fixated, unrepentant, insensate, and monstrously pathetic. Too gangrenous to even pity, all you can do is marvel at the despicableness of his next escapade, and wonder how the next will top even that.
Or so Terry Zwigoff would have you believe. All in all this vitriolic attack on the meaninglessness and commercialism of the vilest of religious holidays is still nowhere near as mean as Ghost World or even Crumb, Zwigoff's previous endeavour. It just has more scenes where a grown man pisses himself or has anal sex with either ‘plus-size' women or bartenders with Santa fixations.
This is a relatively funny film, but kinda pointless. If you have a high threshold for matters of excruciatingly vicious black humour, then you might find this film funny. If you loathe Christmas you're probably going to think this is the best Christmas skewering since The Nightmare Before Christmas or anything with Scrooge in the title. It's pointless for me because my loathing of Christmas doesn't need reinforcement, but it's still entertaining. I've hated Christmas ever since I was 7 and instead of getting a pony like I wanted, I was handed a My Little Pony instead. From that day on I swore I would do everything in my power to make other people hate Christmas as much as I do.
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, my work is already done for me by mawkish television ads, department stores that set up their merchandise-related Christmas displays in October and awful, insincere cards that you get from co-workers who you wouldn't piss on if they were ablaze. Then remember, for those unlucky enough to have families, how excruciating Christmas Day is in itself. Being talked at by some drunken, moonshine stinking relative you only see at Christmas and funerals for an hour or two about their various medical complaints.
Humouring that elder grandparent and emptying out the various receptacles on their motorised wheelchair in the hope that they skip some other family members and leave the bulk of their fortune to you instead. The fortune ends up being shares in some company that went belly-up during the Great Depression, of course, but you don't know that yet. The gifts you give and receive that no-one wants and no-one appreciates, especially from those recently engaged or married family members that foist their unwanted wedding / engagement gifts on you, like melon-ballers, foot spas and plastic plates. Nothing says classy like plastic.
But for others it is a celebration of, um, family and stuff. And that's fine, I guess. The only aspect I truly love about it is that it's a guaranteed day off from work. Other than that the trappings of it are worthless, truly worthless. As they are obviously to our Bad Santa.
Willie and his little dwarf friend Marcus (Tony Cox, who is the funniest person in the film) get work as a department store Santa and elf respectively around Christmas time, with the intention being the ripping off of the mall on Christmas night. Despite the fact that Willie is an eternal fuck-up and a really appalling Santa, he does have one useful ability, and that is the ability to crack safes. His little person accomplice uses his miniature stature to circumvent security and gain access to places where us large folk can only dream of going.
Of course the money never lasts, so next year in the lead up to the evil celebration of Yule, Willie needs must don the hated suit and terrorise the children again long enough for the little chap to work out how they're going to rip a place off. His materialistic Chinese wife (I mean the little guy's wife) also has to select all the crap she wants hubby to grab as well as she compiles her shopping list of
Though they've been doing it for a while it gets harder with each passing year. Apart from the growing danger of being caught after having used the same modus operandi for several years in different cities, there's the basic fact that Willie is a hopeless drunk and heroically vile, which makes it difficult to maintain the charade that they're just a harmless Santa and his helpful elf. His alcoholism, which doesn't look anywhere near as fun, as charming or as entertaining as Charles Bukowski, Henry Miller, F Scott Fitzgerald, or Oliver Reed made it look, seems to be getting progressively worse as well.
Can it be helped? Can Willie be redeemed and made a decent, law-abiding member of society through the love of a good woman and the adulation of a seemingly retarded boy called Herman Merman? Will he learn that Christmas isn't about money or presents, but about sharing time with the people you love, in between pissing your pants and fucking them as they chant ‘Fuck me, Santa?'
Well, I'll let you find out for yourself, but really, don't hold your breath. Anyone who yells out ‘You're not going to shit straight for a month!' to a woman as he's sodomising her in the change rooms of a department store three quarters of the way through a film can't really be expected to be on the character development arc that leads to redemption in the more treacly versions of films of this ilk.
But it is funny getting to the finish line all the same. There is a rumour put about, even by Billy Bob Thornton himself that he was genuinely drunk during most of the film. I find that, as I like to say, hard to believe. I would not put it past Billy Bob to be drunk, or Terry Zwigoff to encourage it, it's just that getting actors to say their lines and get their cues right is hard enough at the best of times.
You, yes you, over there, nursing your shandy or your quality glass of boxed wine, you know how hard it is to sometimes have a logical conversation with a drunk at the pub. Imagine trying to get it right when there's film rolling and it costs hundreds or thousands of dollars per second, and some drunk fucker is stumbling about the place humping the furniture and complaining about the alien Vietnamese tooth fairies that stole their dentures when they passed out in the toilet the other night. Also I know for a fact that movies (mainstream American films at least) need guarantors to ensure they get financed; the guarantors want insurance to protect themselves if the film doesn't get finished; the guarantors don't get insurance if drunk people are fucking around on set.
It is alleged that the reason why one of Australia's most acclaimed and accomplished cinematographers Christopher Doyle generally doesn't work on American films (though I'm sure he's happy to keep lensing visual masterpieces for Wong Kar Wai and Zhang Yimou like Hero and the upcoming House of Flying Daggers), is because they don't let him drink his beers in peace whilst he works. Do you like how I tried to cover my arse legally there with the word ‘alleged'? I'm learning I am. It took only 5 defamation suits to get me where I am today.
Anyway, I doubt he was drunk, but Billy Bob puts in a, most importantly, pretty fucking funny performance. His interactions with a kid that seems to believe him to be the real Santa are priceless, and he never makes the mistake of turning on the schmaltz. He is always true to the vile nature of his character, and thus remains a well-realised (though truly unpleasant) character, and not just a caricature. That doesn't mean you'll be entertained by watching his exploits, especially if you expect your movies to be uplifting or have at least some redeeming elements.
For a comedy it's not really a thigh-slapper, it's more of a wry chuckler. The majority of the humour comes from watching Bad Santa do the worst possible thing in any given situation, but also in waiting for a few of the choicer lines which I'll graciously allow people to discover for themselves.
The supporting cast, with the exclusion both of dearly recently departed John Ritter and Bernie Mac, who bring nothing to the table, do a decent job supporting our ‘star'. Billy Bob's hairpiece also does a wonderful job. The hairpieces are central to Billy Bob's work. The better the hairpiece, the better the overall film. Just look at his oeuvre: Sling Blade, Man Who Wasn't There, Monster's Ball, A Simple
Plan; good films with good piece work. Look at his other films: Levity, Pushing Tin, Intolerable Cruelty, Bandits; terrible movies with awful wigs. Do you see a pattern forming here? I think you do, spunky trunks.
This isn't a family film, despite the fact that it's playing at this special time of the year, at least here in Australia. Don't take ya mum, or your maiden aunt to see it, because they're going to find it vile, despite the fact that for my money the film is nowhere near as transgressive as the makers think it is. Real alcoholism is far worse.
Thankfully I don't live it myself, but I know enough people and have seen much that is truly horrifying from the world of the drunkard to lack the intention to ever romanticise it. Just as an example, I have my own story to relate. Last week I was having some drinks at an inner city bar called Gertrude's, sitting outside at a table on the footpath on a balmy Saturday night. My friends and I had sunk a few bevvies, but the night was relatively young.
An hour before this point as I had been walking up to the bar to meet my friends, I'd passed on Gertrude Street a large aged drunk sitting on the step of a shop front, drinking straight from a cask of goon. He probably asked me how I was, and I answered as I walked past ‘Not too bad, old timer.' I thought little of it until such time as I saw him again as he stood before us, swaying in the moonlight before our table.
The man is the real Bad Santa, in that he looks far more like an evil drunken Santa than Billy Bob could ever hope to look. He was the genuine face of alcoholism, without the snappy dialogue and hot bartenders willing to have sex with him and clean up his various messes. He had long, wild white hair and a long flowing grey beard, at least the bits that weren't covered in vomit. And he had the hefty gut that generally makes Santa look so happy and jolly.
He began relating to us the tale of the woe that had befallen him that very night: some young punks had come up to him but moments before and asked him for a smoke. Upon offering them one from his packet, they mercilessly snatched the packet and ran like they'd stolen something, which they obviously had. And lo!, Bad Santa in his piss and shit-stained pants wept before us, having been reduced to such a low point as to require the kindness of strangers for his next smoke.
Amidst our ‘humour him he may be dangerous' noises of sympathy and understanding, one friend valiantly botted a smoke from another table and gave it to him. Such charity. Such kindness. Another acquaintance at the table, whom I will call Breadknife, for reasons that still escape me kept giving and refilling glasses of water for his delectation. The theory could have been that a man who'd been drunk since victory was declared in the Pacific against the Japanese at the tail end of WW II could be sobered up with a few glasses of water. Yeah. That'll work.
I should point out that the Breadknife herself was quite drunk at this time, and kept goading Drunken Bad Santa to drink the water because, to quote, ‘it will be good for you'. After he related the same story to us another five times and the Breadknife gave him around ten glasses of water, he eventually clicked to the fact that she was somehow insulting him.
He's where the fun begins. At this point he dropped the glass on the ground and his mumbling rose to a crescendo, ‘MrbbgrrrrrrRRRORRRWGBHH CUNT!!!' He started fumbling at the drawstring keeping his tracksuit pants up. There's a certain inevitability to what follows from here on in.
Knowing exactly what was about to happen I still stupidly asked for some reason ‘Um, what are you doing?' It was obvious what he was doing. He was whipping it out for all the world to see, to allow us to glory at the sight of his cock, to recline possibly in its moonlit shadow. Or even better to change the sport of ribald quippery and wit that we were playing to one of water sports, or some such madness.
Upon the great revelation I screamed ‘PUT THAT MINISCULE THING AWAY, in your case it definitely does NOT pay to advertise!' It sounds like the kind of phrase you think up after the fact and then tell people you'd said, but I'll swear on a stack of Hustler's Barely Legal magazines that I said it then and there, and I would not be telling a lie.
So shocked I was that it'd actually happened, and miffed with myself for not being able to stop him in time, I blurted out what I thought was adequate to penetrate his hazy stupor and shame him into reigning in his blighted dick. It worked, the tracky dacks were re-hitched, but for some reason instead of seeing this as a reason to leave he though perhaps that the experience had brought us closer together. So he stayed and told us the story of the Stolen Cigarette Packet a few times more.
No night can have further purpose after something like that, surely. What greater highpoint can you possibly anticipate or wish for? We left, sensing that this was the only way to end the saga of the Bad Santa since he refused to leave and security refused to touch him without industrial gloves, and we found somewhere else to drink.
You can understand that the main topic of conversation for the rest of the night was the evil drunk, but more than that, especially amongst the heavy drinking men at the table, what horrified us the most was the potential glimpse that we'd just had of our own futures. You can tell a guy that heavy drinking can affect a man's appearance, health, relationships, breath, work etc and he's not going to bat an eyelid.Show him how shrivelled, atrophied and useless his cock could become, and he's going to have second thoughts about a life of drunken oblivion.
Our Bad Santa had a penis so small it would have made the average conservative voter's cock feel bigger in comparison. So tiny and shrivelled, I swear it was no bigger than the top joint of my thumb, so small that even children would poke fun and giggle. The joke would have been on us had he been hung like an anaconda, but still, it's hard not to draw a connection between lifelong alcohol addiction
and cocklessness. Mark my words and mark them well.
Alcoholism is no laughing matter, to be sure to be sure. But drunks with tiny cocks still willing to display them to the world and films about unrepentantly vile fake Santas willing to take a stand against the mindless consumerism of Christmas are all right in my book. Better than all right, they're mighty fine. Life's rich fucking tapestry and all that.
7 times out of 10 you wish you lacked compassion and restraint and could just beat the crap out of old drunks that expose themselves to your girlfriend and potentially make you look worse in comparison.
Kid: Your beard's not real.
Willie: It was real, but I got sick and all the hair fell out.
Kid: How come?
Willie: I loved a woman who wasn't clean.
Kid: Mrs. Claus?
Willie: Actually it was her sister – Bad Santa