Friday, March 13, 2015

In Your Eyes (2014)

Today I learned that Joss Whedon apparently has no grasp on reality. Why would I say that about a guy who has made some TV shows and movies I really enjoy? Well, because I just saw In Your Eyes.

Director: Brin Hill
Starring: Zoe Kazan, Michael Stahl-David

Co-written with Michelle.

This is seriously insipid, candy-fluffed nonsense that I would use harsher language for, but really it's too innocuous to deserve that; being more akin to a really goofy, dumb looking small animal stumbling around with no real special purpose or means of survival. Apparently the script was written way back in the early 90s, so I guess that gives Whedon a pass – I mean we're not talking about the later-era Whedon who wrote the excellently done romances in Angel. It was an earlier time and maybe he just hadn't fully grown into his own as a writer yet.

Buuuuuuut I still wouldn't want professional directors, actors and studios putting money into the crap I was writing 20 years ago if I was in his position!

This movie starts off with a boy and girl in different parts of the country, who have a mysterious telepathic connection. It's pretty unexplored at this point though, and we see the girl go sledding and crash into a tree. The boy feels it too, and falls out of his desk at school like he's having a seizure. Of course the teacher doesn't seem to care at first, thinking he's just horsing around. Because in a bad movie, kids horse around in class by falling out of their desks.

Then we skip ahead like 20 years, and apparently nothing interesting happened in either of their lives in between then and now? No more weird psychic, telepathic events that alerted you to things going on with your bodies that you might want to get checked out? This is really the first hole of the movie, not even five minutes in. I mean, there are TV psychics who build careers out of less evidence than you guys have!

I mean, there were just so many other possibilities you could've gone with, and you chose the worst one! It would have been more interesting to see them developing as teens and discovering their psychic connection together. But the way the movie plays it, they apparently just lived pretty normal lives until they were working in their late 20s or so and then randomly, out of nowhere, discovered their powers. Zoe Kazan's character even mentions a few times that she was in a mental hospital as a teen, so I figured maybe that had something to do with her powers, and the movie would get some real tension and conflict. But nope; it's just a non-sequitur. What a tease.

They just picked the worst, least dramatic time period for these characters' lives to set the movie up in, and as a result, I find myself just wishing one of these characters would get cancer or have a volcanic mental meltdown in the middle of a crowded subway station.

But that doesn't happen. What we get instead is basically the most over the top, exaggerated cliché of their respective lifestyles – the guy, Dylan, is an ex-con fresh out of prison who lives in a trailer and hangs out at the stereotypical small town redneck bar where of course fights break out every night. And of course, Dylan is the best looking redneck in New Mexico – because yes, real ex-cons in shitty little small towns do look like this.

He's the hottest GQ cover model to ever spend time in prison and then get out and live in a trailer park.

The girl, Rebecca, is a wealthy trophy wife socialite who hangs out at parties where they gabber on about just the most meaningless, trite, played-out crap you'd expect background characters in some kind of awful 90s sitcom caricature of a big fancy party. The women all talk about men and who's sleeping with who, because what else do women ever have to talk about? The men just talk about business, because why not? It's kind of like if Pride and Prejudice was adapted into a screenplay by Tommy Wiseau.

"Oh, you're here for our monthly pointless-exposition-spewing party!"

Another ridiculous plot point is that Dylan apparently went to prison for committing crimes with his two childhood school buddies, who he has kept in touch with and still hangs out with now. Who the fuck hangs out with kids they knew in middle school when they're in their 30s? Are you seeing what I mean here? It's all just so cartoony, corny and clich̩. If it was just little things and the actual story was meatier and more interesting, fine Рbut no, this is literally the entire movie up to now. Just a painful trudge through cliches slapping you around like a wet ferret in a hurricane.

I thought maybe it'd get better when we got to the real meat of the story – you know, maybe show off more of that old Whedon charm and wit – but no, it really doesn't. They first “connect” while she's at a shoe store, and start to see glimpses through each others' eyes. You'd think they would be shocked, alarmed and have huge questions – but nope, they start chatting like old acquaintances and ask about what cars they have.

Either she's just discovered she has telekinetic powers and can talk to a guy on the other side of the country, or she just found a good deal on shoes at this store. Either one.

It's really just strange more than anything – so they suddenly have this intrusive voice in their heads and they just go with it happily, like some strange pen pal program? I mean, the biggest chance any of us would have in this situation would be getting someone in our heads who's really annoying and we don't like talking to. But apparently these two just got super lucky.

Not to mention the powers are extremely inconsistent and don't seem to have rules. Sometimes, they activate randomly when Rebecca is least expecting it. Other times they seem to be able to turn it on and off. I'm also amazed they manage to figure out how to work their powers so quickly! They must be psychic geniuses.

And I get it; I fucking do – not everything has to be super 100% realistic. It's supposed to be a stars-crossed-lovers story. But you have to have some kind of human connection, some kind of depth. You can write the most fantastical, unbelievable things. But you have to have the human element, the relatable writing where characters act in ways you can understand. Whedon himself would master this later on, but this script just has zero emotional connection in it. So I guess this movie is kind of his sketchy demo tape in comparison – it's easier to digest when you look at it that way.

The film just drags on with scenes of the two characters attempting to emote but really just acting like robots interacting on a deserted wasteland with no human contact for three decades prior. Oh, and we get a slew of horrible, horrible songs played over "artsy" shots of the main characters just wandering around looking at nothing. Yes, please give us more music rejected from your cousin's Beatles imitation wedding band in the movie, guys! We just need more!

These scenes are as deep as a James Bond villain's pool filled with man-eating sharks!

I mean, okay, the acting is fine for what meager scraps the script gives them, and even the dialogue could be way worse – I've certainly seen more soulless verbal vomit on screen. But really it just comes down to the fact that their characters' struggles are about as substantial as Necco wafers – fluffy, insubstantial, pastel-colored pap.

Pictured: the movie. Or, Necco wafers. I forget which one.

Yes, please, endear me to the plight of the bored house-wife who could do anything she wants with her free time and copious amounts of money, but just doesn't have the imagination, so instead she hangs out with an imaginary friend in her head. I'm sure the legions of Instagram followers will be sympathetic.

And what about Dylan? Yeah he's an ex-con and struggling to find work, but he only loses the job he has because he's talking to Rebecca in his head constantly while doing work which makes him look crazy. Otherwise he seems to be OK; he has his own place to live and isn't struggling to eat. Hell, he's got beer money. I guess we're supposed to feel sorry for him because he looks out at a changing sunset for hours on end with nothing else to do.

This is as deep as a cavernous black chasm opening up to the center of the Earth that you would die screaming in if you tripped and fell into!

Oh, but there is a scene where Rebecca helps Dylan ask out some idiotic woman at that same dumb bar. He invites her over to his trailer, and tries to cook steak, which goes about as well as it ever does in movies. I remember always thinking as a kid, man, it must be hard as shit to cook anything, being that all these dumb-ass movies depicted cooking as this arcane alchemy that only a Zen master could perfect. Seriously, it really isn't as hard as movies like to pretend. You follow the fucking directions, and most of the time you'll get it right after a few times practicing, no matter what it is. But because this is a doofy romantic comedy, we get this instead:

I was really, really hoping he would just serve her steak literally on fire on a plate and go "here you go, sorry it's a little burnt!"

The ending is just more of the same crap – he has to go save her because her second rate Ralph Fiennes husband's evil switch flipped on and he locked her up in a mental asylum because he suspected she was cheating on him. Because apparently we've gone back in time to the plots of 1950s romantic telenovelas for inspiration!

It's not really an issue, though, as they help each other telepathically to get to one another, with him teaching her to pick locks so she can open the door and escape, and her giving him directions to drive to the asylum, like she's the world's prettiest-looking GPS. So this is really about as tense as a Barney cartoon's plot would get.

They have a pretty boring romp through the snow and then kiss after jumping implausibly, hilariously, into a moving train box car.

I guess they must also have super speed running powers, because I have no fucking idea how this ends without them both crushed underneath the train.
Apparently these characters have never kissed anyone before somehow, because they both look like they're trying to eat one another.

So what next? My guess is they just use their powers to see into each others' eyes while looking at one another, thus causing a rip in the time stream and sending both of their souls spiraling out of their bodies and into the abyss forever. I mean, they don't know each other that well, neither of them has any financial income and they'll probably grow to resent each other quickly due to this incredibly hasty, poorly planned elopement together. So my ending is happier, really.

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