In life, we need to strike a balance. We need time to think, time to love, time to have fun, work our bodies, be social, be ourselves, yet despite needing all these things, we can’t do everything at the same time. How can we do everything to BE the person we want to be? Artists and philosophers delve into this topic time and time again to understand the human condition. Books have been written, movies made, paintings painted, fuckin’ paper has been folded into little birds to examine the unique formula that is our everyday life. And it’s fascinating. It will always be fascinating. At least until you run into that one guy who only THINKS he has a lot to say and fucks it up for you.
That’s what ‘Charlie, Trevor, and a Girl Savannah’ is for me; it’s the stoner at the party talking out of his ass, the know it all who checks their facts on Reddit rather than a credible source, the faux philosopher who thinks that his college degree (that probably took him six years to get) makes him an expert in the inner workings of the world itself. This movie wants to be more than just a passive experience and “explore” the mind, body, and soul. At least that’s what IMDB says. The movie doesn’t do a very good job at explaining this (despite the fact that the dialogue ham fists it’s ideology) This theme is explored as well as the asshole of a drunk freshman during pledge week.
Let’s talk about story for a minute. Savannah is Trevor’s girlfriend, a douchebag party bro that cheats on her all the time (though he feels bad, so we’re supposed to give him a pass), she also spends time with Charlie, an unironic hipster character who’s only character traits are that he smokes weed ALL THE TIME and that he’s a writer who still uses an old typewriter to write his stories. Savannah is kidnapped while hanging out with Trevor and now it’s up to him to find her. At the most basic level, not a bad idea, but ‘Charlie, Trevor, and a Girl Savannah’ tells this story in the most roundabout way possible. This is due to the “plot” taking a backseat to the “theme”, which never ends well when your last name isn’t Kubrick.
I’m all for exploring themes, hell, I just had a pretty good conversation with some buddies about ‘Seven Samurai’ not that long ago, but a movie shouldn’t cram it’s shit down your throat like Gram-Gram’s terrible creamed onions, it should happen naturally like cramming Gram-Gram’s apple pie down your throat. That’s what ‘Charlie, Trevor, and a girl Savannah’, and movies like it, fail at…subtlety. They think that by having the conversation for you, in this case, Trevor talking with his psychologist, the filmmakers ideas will be fully expressed. This is just as insulting as thinking that the public wants nothing but tits and explosions. Tits are nice, explosions are nice, and well explored themes are nice, but if any of these things become too overwrought, the public (myself included) will feel like you think we’re stupid. That leaves the filmmakers in one of two camps, either they did it intentionally and are assholes, or they did it unintentionally and suck at their job.
It doesn’t help that the editing is headache inducing. Everything is cut together quickly. I’m assuming that this was meant to give the sense of anxiety, but all it does is make the each scene of the movie look like a shitty trailer. The “craziness” is then punctuated by the camera spinning around, the dialogue being spelled out on screen, or freezing on one of the antagonists and showing their “clever” name. It’s like writer director Ty Hodges saw ‘Crank’, played ‘Borderlands’, and said to himself, “I can do that.” No you can’t Hodges! No you fucking CAN’T!
Everything this movie tried to do was cancelled out by it’s shitty counterpart. All you’re left with once you reach the credits is a sense that time has passed. You know that SOMETHING was happening, though you don’t care since the movie didn’t care. Characters were developed to have distinct personalities, though every character is annoying and/or unlikeable. And the themes that film tried to explore were so poorly handled that I didn’t know what the fuck was going on until I checked out IMDB. SOMEONE from the film wrote the synopsis and didn’t even try to hide that fact. Don’t believe me? Check out this excerpt from ‘Anonymous’:
“Even though this film can come off dark our goal was to express a universal message that can seem complicated, but is as simple as exploring the Mind, Body and Soul.”
One of two things is happening here: 1. The fact that it was written by one of the filmmakers was never meant to be seen as avoidance, in which case it succeeded as well as the message the film was trying to convey. Well done! You were so vague, yet so ham fisted that I was confused even though you shoved a shitload of crappy exposition in my face (maybe you should upgrade to IMDB Pro if it wouldn’t let you use your name for the free account; be a goddamned professional!). Or 2. They actually thought that they could tell the people what they thought they missed by watching the film and were stupid enough to leave that language in. I’m going to defend them for once and say that the former most likely occurred. It takes a special kind of dumb (the Florida kind) to use first person language in a supposed third person synopsis.
‘Charlie, Trevor, and a Girl Savannah’ feels like something from a film student. When I was studying film, I’d see plenty of people who after watching film after film by acclaimed directors and discussing them with professors and friends, wanted to make their own mark. They wanted to explore heavy themes like Kurosawa, become visually demanding like Kubrick, all while maintaining the dense, human story stylized by Scorsese. They all looked like this. It’s amateurish and tries to justify it’s existence by shoving it’s point down our throats both inside and outside of the film as if the problem was US, the viewer. If this was a student film I saw during an exhibition, I’d look at it for what it is: practice. But it’s not a student film. It got released and they charged money for it. If I bought a ticket, I would have been pissed.