A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Be Kind Rewind

February 28, 2011

Be Kind Rewind

As of tonight we have watched and reviewed a different movie every day for an entire year. So we figured we’d watch a movie about movies. This was yet another movie I bought sight unseen based only on the preview. I loved both the notion of amateurish movie re-makes and Mos Def and Jack Black and Danny Glover. Even better it is written and directed by the edgy and weird Michel Gondry.

The movie centers on a down-on-its-luck video store in the town of Passaic New Jersey. I loved seeing this little corner video shop – a tiny little independent store that reminded me very much of the little store I used to frequent on Beacon Hill in the eighties. Mike’s Video had a better selection (the store in this film seems to have a lot of empty shelves) but it was the same little one room store with shelves and shelves of video cassettes and a single person behind the counter. Of course this movie is all about a sort of iconic simplification. Gondry has gone out of his way to show that this store, and indeed the entire neighbourhood it exists in, is a little slice of Americana. They don’t even seem to have a computer.

When store owner Mr. Fletcher goes on a one week vacation to celebrate the birthday of his idol Fats Waller he leaves the store in the hands of his enthusiastic but not always too bright employee Mike. He also leaves specific instructions that Mike not let local crazyperson Jerry into the store. Jerry does come into the store, though, and due to some implausible hijinks at a power substation near Jerry’s scrapyard every one of the video tapes in the store gets erased. So the two affable screw-ups have no choice but to re-film the movies themselves. They tell their customers that they have to charge extra for these movies and it will take them a day or so to get each one in because they are special Swedish versions of the films. Within no time at all these “Sweeded” versions of popular movies are an enormous hit with all the locals – not the least because in an attempt to make the movies faster the duo hit upon the idea of allowing the townsfolk to appear in the films.

From there the movie takes some odd turns. There is a lot of charm to the amateur productions of movies done in an afternoon by just a couple guys. Indeed if you enjoy that sort of thing you will probably have a lot of fun like I did checking out all the films linked from the internet Sweeded movie database which is where i spent about an hour after this movie was over. It could easily have been just a movie about the “Sweeded” films. But it’s not really that. This is a movie about community and about people in a run-down town coming together and getting excited about an unlikely project.

Really, that’s the most magical thing about this movie. It has a very amateurish feel to it. It’s strange and comical and offbeat and doesn’t feel like a polished Hollywood film. Apparently this is because it wasn’t a Hollywood film. If you look at the special features on the film you discover that in a meta bit of weirdness this movie about a neighbourhood in Passaic coming together to make a movie was actually something that brought a neighbourhood in Passaic together. Almost all of the extras are local residents. The owner of the junkyard they used for Jerry’s home appears in the movie as a disgruntled customer. The children and teens in the movie are local children and teens. It turns something that could have been just a quirky comedy into something more soulful and more touching. And it shows in the final product.

This movie was not altogether what I was expecting from the previews, but it was heartwarming and entertaining nonetheless. Jack Black plays his usual loudmouthed jackass, but he fits well into the fabric of the movie because that is just the right character for Jerry. Mos Def is charming as his bumbling friend Mike who gets swept up in all Jerry’s schemes but generally knows what’s right and what’s wrong. Danny Glover is fantastic as the somewhat defeated owner of Be Kind Rewind Videos who desperately needs a miracle in his life. I was also pleasantly surprised by the female leads. I had no idea Mia Farrow was in the movie and she’s fantastic as the slightly spacey Miss Falewicz, who appears to be the most loyal customer of the struggling video store. There’s also Melonie Diaz as Alma, a girl who works at a nearby laundromat who ends up being the female lead for Mike and Jerry’s movies. It’s a great role because she gets to be the voice of reason who has to find ways to make this crazy scheme actually work. Almost every other role is played by members of the crew or local townsfolk. Which makes the movie all the more charming and fun.

For the most part Michel Gondry doesn’t utilize his usual vast bag of tricks. It’s a much simpler movie than that. The one exception I can think of is a fantastic montage that depicts the making of a collection of the “Sweeded” films which appears to be a single long take showing the zero budget effects used to make these re-makes. So much of the fun in this movie, and in all the fan submitted “Sweeded” films on the web site, is in the creativity used to bring these special effects from Hollywood to Passaic.

This was a perfect movie to close out the first year of our project. It’s got a love of films and a playfulness to it that is infectious. I know that if I had seen this in High School my friends Jeff, Josh and I would have been out “Sweeding” movies the very next day. Right now I’m trying to think up ways to do Inception on no budget whatsoever. Hmmm.

February 28, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | 2 Comments