Earlier today I noticed some surging Twitter tributes for Edgar Wright‘s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, which opened in August 2010. The nostalgia faucets were gushing all over the sidewalk. I was living in Brooklyn a decade ago, and one of my Scott Pilgrim recollections is that it prompted a brief suicide fantasy. God, that movie! And oh Lordy, the joy when the domestic gross topped out at $31 million ($47 million worldwide) after the film itself cost $85 million, not to mention the marketing.
Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) is obviously a nervy, fairly bright and moderately gifted director — seriously, no jive — and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, even though it seems to be putting out a kind of aesthetic nerve gas, is some kind of cool-ass, smarty-pants, richly stylized…uhm, waste of time?
It’s kind of nifty if you want to feel connected to a movie that under-30 moviegoers are apparently responding to. It’s empty and strained and regimented, but…you know, cool and funny and clever, heh-heh. It has wit and vigor and smart music, and it gradually makes you want to run outside and take an elevator to the top of a tall building and jump off.
Did I just say that? I mean that it’s a masterpiece of its kind. That sounds facile, doesn’t it? I think I might actually mean that Scott Pilgrim is a seminal and semi-vital thing to experience right now. My kids set me straight on this. Call me unstable or impressionable but I’ve also come to think that Michael Cera might be a fresh permutation of a new kind of messianic Movie God — a candy-assed Gary Cooper for the 21st Century.
No, seriously, it’s not too bad. I mean, you know…just kill me.
I was sustained, at times, by the meaning of the seven ex-boyfriends. They’re metaphors for the bad or unresolved stuff in Mary Elizabeth Winstead‘s life. If you’re going to really love and care for someone, you have to accept and try to deal with everything in their heads and their pasts, and not just the intoxicating easy stuff. Scott has to defeat these guys in the same way that any boyfriend or husband has to defeat or at least quell the disturbances in his girlfriend’s or wife’s head. That’s how I took it, at least.
I’m not doubting that Cera has been a Scott Pilgrim graphic novel fan for years, but the movie, I think, came out of his wanting to transform into a tougher, studlier guy in movies by becoming a kind of ninja warrior fighting the ex-boyfriends in a Matrix-y videogame way. I really don’t think it was anything more than that. Seriously.
“No offense, Michael, but the world thinks you’re a wuss,” Cera’s agent said one day on the phone. “They see you as a slender reed, a worthless piece of shit girlyman with a deer-in-the-headlights expression and a little peep-peep voice. Somehow we need to toughen you up, and having you fight a bunch of guys, even if it’s in a fantasy realm, is certainly one way to do that.”
Just to be clear: I didn’t want to kill myself while watching Scott Pilgrim vs The World. That notion or impulse came later. On the way home to Brooklyn on the L train, I think.
I know that if movies are in fact going to be moving more and more in the direction of Scott Pilgrim in the coming years — video-game inspirations, glib dialogue, wimpy girlymen in lead roles, bullshit video-game fight scenes, laid-back gay guys engaged in threesomes in shitty basement apartments — then I really would rather die. Because movies as I’ve known them all my life would in fact be dead, and there’d be nothing to live for.
Then again I really liked the music that Scott’s band plays. It throbs and churns with a wowser bass line — not at all like the tweedly-deedly music my two sons seem to prefer these days. And I liked Kieran Culkin, who plays Scott’s gay roommate, and at the same time I wanted to see him cut in half (or into several pieces) with a chainsaw. And I liked the little lovesick Asian girl (Ellen Wong) who has a crush on Scott, and I despised Scott for not being able to summon the puny amount of courage it would have taken to simply lay it on the line and tell her he’s fallen in love with someone else. But…you know, as Scott says early on, “That’s haaaaard.” What a guy.