Friday, September 14, 2012
Gorgeous cinematography, ghastly characters, and an incredibly cute dog. These are the three main things I took away from Sightseers. These things, and also this: Ben Wheatley is one twisted dude.
If we're talking twisted, I must also include Steve Oram and Alice Lowe, who portray Chris and Tina in Sightseers. The pair had already created these characters for live comedy shows and along with writer Amy Jump and Wheatley himself, have now brought them to film fruition. Unlike Dr. Frankenstein's creation, however, Chris and Tina are not misunderstood. They truly are despicable people. It's okay to think they're monstrous.
It's a big gamble to make the protagonist a bad person; it's an even bigger one to have two bad people. In truth, no one is very likeable in Sightseers, except for the dog. It results in a lot of howling laughter; some of it feels justified, while some of it will make you feel terribly ashamed. These conflicting feelings can take place one after another, layered repeatedly throughout the entire movie.
With no overarching conflict to resolve, Sightseers becomes even more dependent upon its characters. You may think you have them figured out in the beginning, certain of who you'll be rooting for and against, until the movie pulls the rug out from under you, watches mutely while you crack your skull on the floor, and then snickers.
As a contest of "who is the least repugnant?" it seems that Tina is the clear "winner," but she's no anti-hero like Taxi Driver's Travis Bickle or Alex from A Clockwork Orange, dysfunctional figures that elicit sympathy due to the terrible circumstances of their lives. Even with a manipulative harridan of a mother, Tina becomes more difficult to root for than Monster's Aileen Wuornos, and not just because Wuornos was a real person.
In this way, Sightseers is more brutal and cynical than your average horror movie because there is no point to the bad behavior. There's no message of hope or triumph of the human spirit, even though Tina is the Final Girl. Though she does undergo a change from the beginning of the movie to the end, it's not one that induces a wave of relief, only the grim realization that she's just become more awful.
Do not misunderstand: Sightseers is a ridiculously funny, can't-breathe-from-laughing so hard movie. Remembering the oversized pencil, the knitted crotchless panties, the line about Daily Mail readers, and the misuse of the word "muse" will make you laugh during the movie, and later. I think ultimately, however, the movie will have the last laugh, at our expense.
SIGHSTSEERS Screening Times:
Sun., Sept. 16th, BLOOR HOT DOCS CINEMA 7:00PM