Monday, January 30, 2017

Review: Get the Girl

by Patrick Bromley
I was rooting for this one and it did not let me down.

If you've spent any time reading this site, you probably already know that I'm a fan of writer/director Eric England. In full disclosure, he and I have been friendly online and he has even joined me on the podcast a couple of times. If you think this means I cannot give his latest film as objective a review as I am capable of giving, you should stop reading now. I am going to do my best to be fair, but keep in mind that no single review you have ever read -- not from any critic -- is 100% objective. It is not possible when examining art. I'm not particularly interested in objectivity in my film discussions, anyway, but rather curated subjectivity. I want to hear how a person feels, not some detached position.
But this is a conversation for another day. We're here to talk about Get the Girl, Eric England's fourth feature and his most accomplished film to date. It's a super fan, super entertaining bloody black comedy starring Justin Dobies as Clarence, a quote-unquote nice guy who loves beautiful bartender Alex (Elizabeth Whitson) from afar. If only she would get to know him, she'd understand just how right they are for each other, you know? To finally get some face to face time, he enlists the help of Patrick (Noah Segan), a sort-of scummy stranger who agrees to stage a kidnapping -- he nabs Alex and Clarence can come to her rescue, not only introducing himself in spectacular fashion but getting to be hero in the process. Things do not go as planned. They hardly ever do.

With its crime-gone-wrong plot and the manner in which it uses violence as a punchline, there's a very late-'90s quality to Get the Girl. For once, I don't mean that as a pejorative. This isn't some bullshit post-Tarantino rip-off that's 20 years too late, but it is slick and brightly colorful in a way that reminded me of late '90s/early 2000s horror even though it's really not a horror film. Though England is best known for his work in that genre, Get the Girl is more of a comic thriller in the vein of Very Bad Things or early Coen Brothers than it is his earlier horror efforts like Madison County or Contracted. Reuniting with his cinematographer Mike Testin, England uses the full width of the 2.35:1 widescreen frame for long, ambitious tracking shots and bathes the film in neon blues, pinks and purples for his best-looking and most polished film to date. It feels like a big step forward for hime on a technical level, and enjoying the filmmaking on display is a big part of the fun I had with the movie.
There are ways in which the screenplay by England (from a story Graham Denman) acts as a commentary about the "friend zone" and guys who feel somehow entitled to a woman's heart simply because they have some kind of one-sided affection. At the same time, though, the movie never quite overcomes its White Knight problem despite making an effort with a couple of reveals. There is something fundamentally icky about all of Clarence's actions in the film and Get the Girl isn't quite willing to take responsibility for that; again, some lip service is paid and there are developments that speak to the problem, but the character is ultimately meant to be entirely sympathetic and that might be an impossible feat to pull off for any filmmaker. The resulting outdatedness of the movie's gender politics are another major reason the movie feels reminiscent of a late '90s thriller -- though, again, I should stress that the comparison is to one of the good ones like Go, not lame WB shit like Teaching Mrs. Tingle. The distinction matters.

Beyond some of that stickiness, Get the Girl is wicked sharp fun. Dobies does his best to make Clarence likable given the circumstances and Whitson gives Alex a fierceness that belies her "damsel in distress" role, while Noah Segan and co-star Adi Shankar (who is also the producer responsible for many of those "bootleg universe" fan films like Joseph Khan's Power Rangers and Joe Lynch's Truth in Journalism) more or less steal the movie with their off-kilter comic timing that makes each laugh a well-earned surprise. This is a story populated by mostly reprehensible characters -- only Alex is really an innocent -- but we never sit there hating them because we're having too good a time. It's a difficult trick that England pulls off.
Get the Girl is the kind of movie I suspect I'll watch a bunch more times. It has great energy, great comedy, a genuine emotional hook (more within the plight of soon-to-be-divorced Alex than in Clarence's unreciprocated pining) and some excellent violence -- England, never one to shy away from splashing some gore around, lets things get bloody and stages one of the best headshots I've seen in years. The film feels different from his past work while still retaining his voice (England grew up on '90s genre movies, so I don't think the similarities are accidental) and represents an exciting leap forward for him in the way that it moves. His next film, Huntsville, has already been shot, and it already promises to be another change of pace. This is an exciting time to be an Eric England fan, and Get the Girl is the kind of movie that makes being an Eric England fan easy.

6 comments:

  1. Looking forward to seeing this and I absolutely appreciate how good you are at writing spoiler free reviews!

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    1. Speaking of which: remember when Ebert would occasionally just break down the entire 3rd act if a movie in one of his reviews? I love that dude, but wow.

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    2. Fourthed.

      Sounds great, adding to my to-watch list.

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    3. Patrick is king as perfectly criticizing a move, get you excited for it, while pointing out weaknesses, while all the time never giving anything away. Very much appreciated!

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