Sunday, December 05, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
(Edgar Wright, 2010)

In this spirited adaptation of the graphic novel by Bryan Lee O’Malley, Michael Cera, parodying his now-typecast persona as insecure slacker, plays the title hero—a 22-year-old man-child who plays bass for a really terrible rock band called “Sex Bob-omb,” works as a spokesperson for the Ironic T-Shirt fashion industry, and frequents the local Goodwill and indie record store more out of what seems a civic duty than for actual pleasure. While enjoying the casual emotional abuse of a sweet Chinese high-school student named Knives Chau (Ellen Wong, cast as the only character in the entire film whose company I would reasonably enjoy in real life), Pilgrim finds his life in sudden crisis when he one day falls for the fashionably depressive-moody, multicolored-haired new girl in town (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and must engage in a series of video-game styled battles with the girl’s seven evil ex-boyfriends (the wittiest creation being Brandon Routh as a vegan rockstar whose dietary lifestyle gives him Superman-like powers). As with his send-up of/homage to the buddy-cop genre, Hot Fuzz, director Edgar Wright sometimes teeters on the fine line between satire and exploitation, but I have no real complaints with a film that is so obviously indebted to the inventive formal playfulness of Frank Tashlin, as particularly demonstrated in the polygonal Universal logo that opens the film and the shapeshifting of its widescreen format to convey Pilgrim’s emotional state. (Suggested alternate title: Will Success Spoil Scott Pilgrim?) Moreover, for once the hipster scene is justly depicted as it really is: as a self-contained fantasy world, where one’s juvenile sense of victimhood elevates others to the level of dueling antagonists, and where the desire to be socially labeled causes everything in sight to be purposelessly categorized with decorative textual graphics. Although Wright’s incorporation of the video-game aesthetic from O’Malley’s comic book is probably intended to be nostalgic and affectionate (as it certainly is), it also exposes the social limitations of its characters’ narcissistic, ho-hum attitudes.

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