The Watching Life: Red State (Spoiler!)

When I was a teenager, I looked like this:

I also really liked Kevin Smith’s movies.  All of them.  Especially Dogma and Chasing Amy.

When I was in college, I looked like this:

I still liked Dogma, but I viewed his other work as pedestrian and masturbatory.  I was over the adolescent humor.

When I was pregnant, I looked like this:

And I watched that other silly film of his, Jersey Girl, and I did not like it.  I was even less entertained by Chasing Amy, which I tried re-watching, but I still liked Dogma.

Is what I looked like relevant?  No.  But I thought you might like to know.  And Kevin Smith apparently thought we’d want to know what he looked like because he cast himself as Silent Bob in the early pictures.  Just takin’ a page out of his book.  Now that you’re full of my overwhelming cuteness, onward.

Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back was kind of like a 90 minute in joke, and I’m sure I’m not the first person to say it.  I felt good about getting the jokes.  Sort of.  Then I felt annoyed that the picture was so unmemorable.

But last night, we watched Red State.

I will say, without a second thought, that it is Kevin Smith’s best work yet.

It is funny and just the right amount of disturbing.  It asks some really big, important questions about law enforcement,  and freedom of speech, and faith, and by extrapolation, the death penalty.  There were some jokes at Texas’s expense, some at Baptists’ expense, and a surprising role played by John Goodman, a cameo by Kevin Pollack of Usual Suspects fame, and just kidding, not that kid from Dead Girl. (Which is an off-the-trodden-path Zombie picture I’d like to shout out, anyway.  And I think Kevin Smith would be down with that.)

So Red State is violent, irreverent, and does not–until the very, very end with Goodman’s speech to his superiors  (one of whom is played by Patrick Fischer who did a few episodes of Mad Men), wax into that Smith-esque, runon-pubescent wit, full of–what I’m sure he thinks are–poignant observations and cutting truths.  But it works here, because Goodman’s character, Joseph Keenan, is distraught, and there are cutting truths, and these truths go un-pointed-out.  They are left to the viewer to extrapolate.

Keenan’s just killed a bunch of people in this cult compound a la Westboro Baptist Church, and regardless of their totally crazy views and massacre of gay people, he is having qualms.  Regardless of the kudos he’s suffering at his superiors’ hands, regardless of his fear for his job, his retirement, and his fancy American dream, he visibly wrestles with his scruples. And that, my dear readers, is a difficult thing to pull off.  Smith casts judgement on these hate mongers, fully exposing their repugnancy, but he does not let his viewers forget they are people first.  He doesn’t just let the movie end softly in a pillow of self-righteousness.

He’s saying, “Look at us!  Isn’t there something wrong with this?”

With this film, I officially forgive Kevin Smith all of the self-indulgence of his early films.  I will probably go forth and gleefully re-watch all of them, including Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, because, well, maybe I was missing something!


Author: April Line Writing

Writing about whatever the f*ck I want.

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