The Interview Is A Film Worth Fighting ForPosted: December 27, 2014
Let’s get this out of the way right up front: The Interview is far from Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg’s best film. And let’s be honest, after this whole ridiculous circus that has built up around the film, there was a very good chance it could never live up to the hype and expectation. In the end, it is not sharp enough or brazen enough as a satire to justify all of the whining coming from North Korea, which really only underscores the fact that Kim Jong Un is at least as ridiculous as he’s being portrayed in the film anyway. But while The Interview might not be as outright funny or insane as some of Rogen/Goldberg’s better work, it is still a well-constructed movie that gets some things very, very right, and reminds me that they are a directorial duo worth watching.
Through their first two films as directors, Rogen/Goldberg have developed a great sense of visual comedy, as well as retaining the knack for blending plot and character seamlessly on both a thematic and humor level that they showed with their earlier efforts as writers. While it should be said that The Interview is not as good in any of these areas as This Is The End (a film I regret not giving more props to last year), it is certainly another solid addition to the Rogen/Goldberg filmography. I’ve been shocked to find that so many people think The Interview is outright terrible, and while it isn’t as refined as their other films it certainly isn’t dogshit. It is a film that is very well-constructed, that accomplishes some great laughs, and fully embraces its own premise to tell a thematically uncompromising (albeit very goofy) story.
When I say “uncompromising”, don’t take it to mean that Rogen/Goldberg’s depiction of Kim Jong Un is completely lacking in nuance, or a completely scorched-earth demolition of the guy. Indeed, it is a very human portrayal of Kim in a lot of ways (at least by the absurdist, raunchy definition of human that drives all of Rogen/Goldberg’s work). Rather than start off by showing Kim as the ruthless psychopath that he is, they instead choose to show him as a dorky wannabe gangsta, that pals around with Dave Skylark (James Franco) in very cartoonish fashion. This relatable, engaging introduction to Kim not only gives him a bond with Dave that causes conflict as the story goes on, but also establishes the insecurity and emotion that drives Kim’s more unstable behavior. By the time Kim’s facade begins to crack and reveal the true nutjob underneath, our understanding of his character makes it both tragic and additionally horrifying. And by juxtaposing Kim with a similarly-insecure Dave, we can see that while Kim’s issues are relatable, they in no way detract from the completely evil way in which he copes with them. All of this is driven home by a brilliant performance by Randall Park, who should get a lot more work after this movie.
While Rogen/Goldberg’s portrayal of Kim is certainly impressive in its raunchy nuance, the really impressive thematic accomplishment comes in the form of Sook (Diana Bang, another standout) who serves as a reminder that American military intervention might not be the best response to every crazed despot in the world. She makes the argument to Dave and Aaron (Rogen) that killing Kim isn’t the solution, because it will just lead to another crazy to take his place. Rather, they have to expose him as human and flawed so that the North Korean people will feel able to take back their own country. The argument the film ends up making is that, while we should probably not sleep on psychos like Kim, we also shouldn’t storm in and start dictating terms to an already marginalized people; we should only facilitate those people being able to take control of their own country. Indeed, they don’t hold back from letting the North Koreans (good and bad) point out the hypocrisy of America’s policing of the world, though they might not explore that side of things enough in some ways. All of this is wrapped up in the interactions between Aaron and Sook, which are funny while also thematically relevant.
Of course, past all of that thematic stuff, The Interview is primarily a comedy, and that is where it occasionally falters. Sometimes it feels like the film is too tied down by the plot (understandably so, given the story being told) to be able to let the comedy breathe, but in other cases the presumably-improvised material doesn’t land the way it usually does for these guys. There are some recurring gags that fall completely flat for me (Skylark’s constant narration of what’s happening as a goofy tell-all book, for example) but there are many other sequences that work really well. Kim and Skylark singing along to Katy Perry, an unfortunate mistaking of poison for gum, and a quick-cut montage building to a sex scene are all really funny moments, and still just the tip of the iceberg. There are still plenty of big laughs in the film, just not as consistently as you might expect.
So in the end, The Interview is not the razor-sharp, brilliant satire that you’d expect to possibly start a cyber-war between two countries… but then again, it was never really meant to be that. If it wasn’t for North Korea’s leader being such a fucking crybaby (again, proving the film more right than if he just stayed quiet) this would be seen for what it is: a perfectly enjoyable, occasionally smarter-than-you-expect Seth Rogen movie. In some ways, maybe that’s North Korea’s little victory here: by putting so much onus on The Interview, it made everyone assume it would be something more groundbreaking than it actually was, which made it a disappointment for some people. I think over time, once all this bullshit has faded, people will look back at The Interview just as a film, and say that it was a perfectly good bit of comedy that was just the next step in the evolution of Rogen/Goldberg, and that’s just fine. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing it again… hopefully with the most raucous crowd I can find.