Saturday, June 24, 2006

MovieWatch: "A Scanner Darkly"

"A Scanner Darkly"
Director: Richard Linklater
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 42
In a Nutshell: An interesting failure? Richard Linklater has taken a book that was supposedly Philip K. Dick's most autobiographical and given it a bizarre spin that could best be described as stylized banality. Although the movie is roto-scoped in the same way that characterized Linklater's "Waking Life," most of the movie requires and justifies no such aesthetic, which is almost the point. It's a borderline sci-fi story about an undercover narcotics officer (Keanu Reeves) and the deadbeat druggies he's infiltrated and become part of. When the movie shows the effects of the film's new designer drug Substance D, the animators get to have a field day, inserting bugs and aliens and other weirdness. For the majority of the movie, though, the film simulates a sort of junkie logic and as he's been doing since "Slacker," Linklater just enjoys sitting back and recording the patter, even if it isn't even particularly profound in its subtext. In those scenes -- scenes that make up most of the movie -- it's hard to shake the impression that Linklater has directed a stagnant movie of static close-ups and discordant performances and left it to the animators to cover up his failings in plot, character and imagery. At a certain point, the originality of the film's style wore off and it became nearly as monotonous as listening to a Keanu Reeves voice-over, which has to be as mind-numbing as an experience this side of Substance D. Yes, I can see how that might be Linklater's point and I can intellectually work myself into a place where I was interested by "A Scanner Darkly," but not into a place where I enjoyed it.

A note: Because I'm respectful I'm observing embargoes on "Monster House" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest." As soon as reviews start popping up online for either, I'll write a blurb on my impressions of both films.


  1. Anonymous3:35 PM

    Did it seem to you as if Keanu, in his opening little monologue, was desperately trying to channel those rhythms and ennunciations that are distinctive of his _Matrix_ co-star, Hugo Weaving? He let it go after awhile, but early on, he really seemed to be going for an Agent Smith-type thing.

    PS - Winona Ryder wasn't painted right; it quite didn't look like her. Something was off in the jawline or chin area.

  2. Anonymous4:05 PM

    I forgot to ask, does it say in your press notes anywhere who did the voice on the radio when Freck thinks it's telling him to commit suicide? It sounded a little to me like Joe Frank (one of my faves), but there's no credit on IMDB, unless it was "Alex Jones".

  3. Hey C-Dub...

    I think Winona Ryder has just put on a little weigh from when we all knew her back in the day and thus she doesn't look exactly the way we remember her...

    And the Freck Suicide Narrator is credited in the press notes as one Leif Anders...


  4. Anonymous4:48 PM

    hey, i am not the bastard child of the ex-WB and UPN! you better watch your step.

  5. Anonymous4:39 PM

    Yeah, I thought the suicide radio voice was Joe Frank too. Linkletter just had to be going for the same vibe with whoever did it.