dir: Evan Goldberg & Seth Rogen
Over this? You caused an international incident and nearly caused a nuclear war to start over this?
Only time will tell if The Interview was worth it. In the short term, it’s led to a baffling case of international espionage / bastardry in the form of either North Korean hackers or someone in the employ of North Korea achieving a massive hack on Sony, the company that was threatening to release this flick. And it has achieved a notoriety that it otherwise would never have earned based on what the movie is actually like.
I’m sure Sony will inflate the dollar cost of what was done to them for insurance scam purposes, like when you get burgled and you tell the guy or girl from the insurance company “why yes, and that’s where the Picasso used to hang on the wall”, but the impact on them has been huge. The infiltration of their company has resulted in bunches of films that weren’t yet released being flooded onto torrent sites, and the internal communications of the company going back years being revealed for all the world to see.
Sony’s Playstation Network, through which people can buy and stream movies, through which people could buy and stream THIS movie, was taken down, and so was the one for the Xbox, at least temporarily. All those gaming nerds… forced to step away from their screens, it must have been hell for them.
The scale of the attack might not be known for a while, because Sony’s still in that “everything’s fine, nothing to worry about, please go be distracted by something else” mode currently, because they don’t want their share price to fall through the floor.
Plus, it’s all a bit embarrassing, isn’t it? The most positive thing I can say about it is that it’s not as appalling and unfunny as This is The End.
But then that movie was worse than cancer and AIDS put together, so it's not saying much.
The Interview is a movie that seems like it originated solely as a stoned/drunken joke between friends who'd just watched Team America: World Police. I don’t know if those friends were Seth Rogen and James Franco, or Seth and his regular writing partner Evan Goldberg, but it seems pretty obvious that they came up with a lurid, hilarious sounding premise long before they had a decent script or movie to go along with it. Seriously, all they thought of was “wouldn’t it be cool if we made a movie about where we go to North Korea and we kill that nutjob dictator Kim Jong-un?”
Maybe they were so stoned they thought it was the most hilarious idea ever. Maybe they were so stoned that they thought if they did it in movie form, then somehow it would happen in the real world too.
Hollywood is so powerful, after all.
It is perhaps not a completely unique thought process followed through to an absurd end. The things is, most of us can’t get the ideas we think up getting wasted with friends into Hollywood movies. More’s the pity, surely, because if we could all do that at least once, would it really be any worse than most of the crap that gets released anyway?
That might be a glib, throwaway statement, but could any of the Transformers movies or those Twilight movies been any worse if their scripts had been fed through the obligatory drunk/stoned dude filter beforehand?
Surely not. The thing is, we generally blame Seth Rogen for the crudity affronting our eyes and ears in his movies. James Franco, for whatever reason, elects to be the almost retardedly stupid one in this dramaturgical dyad, and Rogen tries to be the responsible intelligent one.
Wow, that’s really mixing things up, isn’t it. Franco is direly, awfully, monstrously crude in this flick, perhaps going to the absolute other extreme just to show he can. When he’s not writing books of poetry, directing adaptations of Cormac McCarthy and William Faulkner novels and finishing his post grad studies in fine arts at NYU, he’s making movies like this with long, interminably long sections where he’s screaming at Rogen that he should come over and smell his stanky dick.
I have a very high threshold for crudity, because, let’s face it, it’s hilarious when it’s done right. All the same I can get awfully bored awful quick if it isn’t funny, and most of the skankiest humour in this flick isn’t funny and it feels so perfunctory. These dudes are so anally fixated, and so much of the story focuses on these dingbats talking about their anal fixations that I’m sure a video of a colonoscopy wouldn’t be as overtly rectum-based.
When it works (very rarely), it’s really more so from the ‘character’ work they do setting out the relationships between Dave Skylark (Franco) and Aaron (Rogen), but even better, the one between Dave and the insane dictator (Randall Park).
And my, what a great dictator he is. So total is the totalitarian regime that the oppressed starving masses of North Korea learn from an early age that their Supreme Leader is responsible for every great invention in human existence, that he can effect weather with his thoughts, and that he is so divine a being that he doesn’t even need to eat or poop.
Dave and Aaron have a strong friendship, but their characters are pretty hard to believe. There’s nothing believable in Franco’s performance as the successful host of a trashy tabloid-like cable program, and Rogen’s not really believable as the show’s producer either. But we have to accept, if we’re going to watch this flick, that this is the premise, however unbelievable it might be. It’s what you do to survive.
Aaron is more reasonable, but Dave is all about emotional responses to circumstances where some thought, or much thought, ideally, would be required. This plays throughout the entirety of the movie, but ends up being a virtue, if ‘virtue’ is the word I’m looking for, at its end. Aaron is the voice of reason, yet, now that I think about it, both characters are idiots, and do progressively stupid stuff in the service of a strange, utter bollocks plot.
By some strange sequence of events, the Supreme Leader of North Korea ends up being a fan of Dave and his show, and agrees to do an interview with him. In Dave’s words this will be the equivalent of the “Frosty Nixon” interviews, which will make him and Aaron global superstars.
The CIA, being the caring, sharing organisation that it is, hears about this, and reckons it’s a prime opportunity to bump off the pugnacious little roly-poly psychopath.
This may seem like the least believable part of the whole flick, but when you consider a lot of the bizarre crap the CIA has owned up to doing in the past, like all those attempts on Castro and his beard, overthrowing the democratically elected leader of Iran and bringing back the Shah, bringing heroin into the States from Vietnam in the bodybags of fallen American soldiers, then this seems like the only credible part of the movie.
The CIA gives these two idiots an adhesive strip with cyanide on it that Dave can put on his palm, shake hands with the dictator, and then half a day later, when they’ll be out of the country presumably, the dictator will meet his maker in the fiery pits of hell. Like all the great plans of mice, men and idiots, this comes apart pretty easily. The reason it falls apart, though, is that Dave falls in love with Kim Jong-un.
Part of that is because Dave seems to be, beyond not being bright but being incredibly vain, an incredibly crude but effective symbol for the American media, and the egos that blind people to the misery they end up glossing over. He’s also a stand-in for the strange sorts of American celebrities who seem to have no problem palling around with dictators, whether there’s money in it for them or not. Former Chicago Bulls baller Dennis Rodman is the most common example is this, since he did actually travel over there numerous times, and come back making all sorts of pro-Kim statements, and probably not even for money. Not directly.
This flick theorises that Jong-un could be an isolated chap who’s grown up being told he’s virtually divine, practically a god, but that he’s mostly a reasonable person. Dave and Jong-un bond, not only over hookers, drugs, booze and music, but over their shared psychological trauma over having fathers whose approval they ever sought but never received.
That might not sound like fertile grounds for comedy, but that’s where the funniest part of the film comes from. Randall Park starts off his portrayal of Kim Jong-un, which I don’t think anyone is pretending is accurate, as an entirely reasonable and genial kind of chap. When the inevitable slide into insane, infantile, world-destroying rage rears its crewcutted head, at least we’ve seen enough of him to wonder whether things could have been different.
As funny, or should I say ‘funny’ as Franco and Rogen are meant to be, I think most of the funniest stuff is actually between Park and Franco. Dave is so dim a bulb that the regime’s token efforts to pull the wool over his eyes about what circumstances are really like for the North Korean people work too easily, but when Dave starts to have misgivings, a puppy alone is enough to set him back on course. Jong-un has so completely started to believe his own divinity that simple human elements, like the lyric of a Katy Perry song, can virtually undo his tightly wound persona.
His inevitable end at the hands of these charlatans at film’s end, necessary as it might have been to save the world, is beautifully given a poignancy the whole film doesn’t deserve, but that perhaps the character does. It’s a bittersweet moment played for ridiculous faux sentiment, seeing as the deeply dippy dictator gets his most heartfelt wish.
This is crude, clumsy filmmaking and even cruder, clumsier satire, and the film would have been released to no-one’s notice and died a swift death at the box office had not the defenders of one of the worst regimes in human history started their bizarre hack attacks on the company that splurged the money that lined these jerks’ pockets.
That’s even part of it, in that the hackers revealed how much Rogen and Franco got paid to star in this (who’d have thought that Rogen would get paid more than Franco?) The story around the film, the impact of the movie’s existence far outweighs anything the film itself says or does, and that’s fascinating.
The Interview itself, however, is not fascinating at all. It has all the poise and class of a Kevin Smith film without any of the pathos or quality acting.
Make of that what you will.
5 times I never need to see another Seth Rogen sex scene ever again as long as I live out of 10
“Our Beloved Leader is wise. He is gentle, kind and strong. We wish him joy. We wish him peace. We wish him love. And the one thing in our time, we wish more than this is for the United States to explode in a ball of fiery hell. May they be forced to starve and beg, and be ravaged by disease.” – oh North Korea, you sooooo crazy – The Interview.