As someone who spends way more time than is probably healthy posting photos of my vinyl record collection on Instagram, brand new film Ingrid Goes West is something that’s just cropped up on my radar thanks to the good folk at Birth.Movies.Death.
Starring the always wonderful Aubrey Plaza and the increasingly interesting Elizabeth Olsen, the synopsis sounds delicious:
“Following the death of her mother and a series of self-inflicted setbacks, young Ingrid Thorburn escapes a humdrum existence by moving out West to befriend her Instagram obsession, a Los Angeles socialite named Taylor Sloane. After a quick bond is forged between these unlikeliest of buddies, the facade begins to crack in both women’s lives — with comically malicious results.”
Frankly, they had me at Aubrey Plaza, but “comically malicious” pushes pretty much all my buttons and the trailer promises a whole lot of dark, squirmy fun which might make you (or even me) swear off Instagram for life. Or at least until I post that photo of my primo new 1976 pressing of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon…
What if I were to tell you that the most heartwarming, life affirming movie of the year involves the farting corpse of Harry Potter showing Paul Dano the meaning of friendship and love? I should mention that it also verges on being a musical.
If that seems unlikely, then the opening of the film, written and directed by Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan, will do little to persuade you. Dano, marooned and hysterically lonely on a tiny desert island, is attempting to commit suicide before being saved by the appearance of Daniel Radcliffe’s flatulent corpse washing up on the beach.
What follows next is a journey, both geographically (although that might be part of a grander delusion) and emotionally, of these two lost souls, who gradually connect with each other and, in that bond, reconnect with the world they left behind.
Dano is charming, desperate and possibly off his rocker, but he makes being delusional seem like a highly likable trait (for most of the running time, at least), while Radcliffe further proves his post-Potter career as being of increasing interest. His corpse is, paradoxically, full of life, showing constant curiosity at the strange new/old world that’s trying to come back into focus around him. Despite the constant farting, he is as likable as his co-star, and their utterly charming relationship is a joy to behold even as it flirts with homo-erotic necrophilia. How many films can you say that about!?
It’s all as strange as it sounds, but the quirkiness is held together by a strong emotional core, never quite tipping over into careless whimsy (though a large chunk of the final act veers dangerously close). This is a film full of beautiful and fragile moments, while at the same being chock full of farts and erections. It’s a bold and beguiling mix and the music score and songs, by Manchester Orchestra’s Andy Hull and Robert McDowell are magnificently uplifting, adding yet another wondrous layer to this strange confection.
If you’re not put off by the bizarre description you’re likely to be rewarded with a disarming buddy movie quite unlike any other, one that will make you laugh out loud and tug at your heartstrings. It will linger in your mind long after the final hilarious sequence which somehow manages to turn flatulence into something quite emotional.
And if all that doesn’t convince you, where else can you spend so much time focusing on a dead Harry Potter’s rampant erection!? Trust me, there’s nothing stiff about this film (apart from Daniel Radcliffe).
Sometimes when watching a movie, one scene can bring that entire film to life, or give you a sense of ownership of that film (or of being owned by it) even when all your critical senses might be fighting against you. This article will be the first in an occasional series where I look at the scenes which do that for me. And today, in honour of the 60th anniversary of Star Trek, I’m going for a doozy!
Released in 1979 and directed by filmmaking great, Robert Wise, Star Trek: The Motion Picture carried a lot of baggage and continues struggling with much of that baggage today.
In the wake of the astonishing box office and cultural success of Star Wars, Paramount Pictures finally gave the greenlight to a long gestating relaunch of their own science-fiction franchise, one which would bring to the big screen the much-loved cast of the CBS TV series, cancelled a decade before.
With a (for its time) astronomically huge budget of around $46 million, mixed reviews from the critics (who found the film ponderous and lacking in the sheer verve of George Lucas’ blockbuster) and less than expected earnings from cinema audiences, the film was considered a failure by some.
Regardless of what might be seen as its failings, there is a scene early in the film so audacious that I can’t help but fall in love with this lopsided puppy every single time.
The story is set some unspecified period of time after the TV show’s five year mission. As a result of a huge, galactic something making its way grumpily towards Earth, wiping out everything and some unfortunate Klingons in its path, a now desk-bound, pen pushing Admiral Kirk (William Shatner, of course) fights his way back into the command seat of Starfleet’s greatest spaceship, the U.S.S. Enterprise.
Transporting up to a station orbiting above the Earth, Kirk is greeted by his old Engineer, Commander Scott, or Scotty with the suspect accent as we know him better (still portrayed by James Doohan). As a plot point, this is done because the still-being-refurbished Enterprise is having some technical issues and its own transporters are out of order (leading to the icky death of some clumsily rematerialized crew members later), however it’s also done to give Star Trek: The Motion Picture its single greatest scene.
Scotty takes Kirk across to the Enterprise in a small shuttlecraft and both Kirk and the viewer are given tantalising views of the refurbished ship, ablaze in a sea of lights, in a drydock floating in space. The filmmakers referred to their look for the Enterprise as “an ocean liner in space”, and they really hit a home run with it.
As the shuttle draws nearer to the Enterprise, we become Kirk, viewing his beloved spaceship for the first time in years. Jerry Goldsmith’s quite beautiful, rousing and romantic music score underlines both the majesty of the starship and the huge emotions welling up inside Kirk.
At first they move outside the drydock’s frame, flirtatiously teasing us with the beauty inside, the Enterprise’s porcelain curves hidden behind steel and metal. Then Scotty swings the shuttle out wide, letting the drydock’s lacy underwear fall away, revealing the spaceship in all its naked glory.
Scotty cruises the shuttle all around the docked Enterprise allowing Kirk (and us) an intimate view of the ship’s beautiful body, he glides between the wide nacelles like he’s parting the legs of a woman prior to making love, then in an absolute crescendo of visuals and music, he eases the shuttlecraft closer… closer… to the docking port on the Enterprise. The film reaches an almost literal sexual climax as the shuttlecraft enters the Enterprise, joining as one.
Kirk looks at his friend and with a satisfied post-coital tone says, “Thank you, Mr Scott.”
Make no mistake about it, this scene is pornography, plain and simple. It’s hardcore porn that satisfies several fetishes – it’s spaceship porn, special effects porn and out and out Star Trek porn. It shows off the Enterprise lovingly, lustily, it luxuriates in the expertise and skills of the artists and technicians who bring the scene brilliantly to life and it wallows in the characters of Scotty, Kirk and his spaceship amour, the Enterprise. It’s filmed exactly like a love scene, long, sensual shots, music rising and falling with Kirk’s (and our) growing arousal.
The whole scene (from Kirk’s arrival on the space station to the final vehicular penetration) is almost seven minutes long, it serves next to nothing in terms of plot function (the points it does cover could easily be carried elsewhere, and with greater brevity) and in fact, it could be argued that the sequence stops the whole film dead in its tracks. I’d certainly struggle to argue with that.
And yet… the whole thing is played with such breathless devotion to its various fetishes, and with such candour at its intended aims, that what should leave me impatiently drumming my fingers instead has me grinning from ear to ear like a lovesick fool.
It’s pure folly to leave this scene intact, but it’s such a thing of confident and giddy fearlessness to subject a cinema audience to this lust in space that all you can do is surrender to its spunky charm and go with the flow.
After this scene, the film can happily take me wherever it wishes to go. Maybe to even boldly go…