Friday, August 28, 2009
WORLD'S GREATEST DAD--MY REVIEW
World's Greatest Dad, the new black comedy from writer/director Bobcat Goldwaith asks us the age old question that has plagued man since the dawn of time:
What if you're life was better after you're kid killed himself?
I know, I know, I can hear the markers squeaking against cardboard as thousands of fat Walmart parents begin making picket signs but deep down, in their blackest hearts, they know they've asked this question before. To try and find the answers Goldwaith recruited Robin Williams in one of the only performances of his I could stand in recent memory. Williams has an incredible knack for dark comedy and spiteful defeated sarcasm that's been largely wasted on his recent string of vomitous feel good movies.
In the film Williams is failed writer-cum-teacher Lance Clayton who longs not only for fame and attention but some kind of validation as a human being. Instead he has a crappy job, an awful girlfriend and what's worse his son Kyle is a total and complete douchebag. That's where the real power of the movie comes from, the fact that Goldwaith makes Kyle a completely reprehensible character. You don't dislike him you loathe him (even though he's funny as hell) so when he dies you're actually cheering for Williams, which makes you uncomfortable with that honesty. A core point to the entire movie.
From there World's Greatest Dad becomes a cold comedy of errors as Williams' little white lie to save face his son snowballs into Kyle becoming a national hero and his fathera celebrity. Throughout the journey you're actually happy for Williams because his character needs a string of good luck, then you realize where the luck stems from and suddenly you need a hot shower. Goldwaith never lets you off the hook with those feelings and that allows the film to transcend from one-joke-wonder to a poignant and savagely funny look at who we are as a people.
Goldwaith's script is a real triumph because he's able to make you understand the motivations of Williams character without giving him any moral loopholes or making him too sinister, that would be too easy. There are no easy right or wrong answers through out the film and that tension gives World's Greatest Dad all of its emotional impact. One of my favorite scenes is Kyle's death scene because there is real pain there, as much of a cunt as the kid is Williams is devastated and the way Goldwaith shoots it is absolutely perfect. All of Williams actions come from a place of desperation, a place we've all been before.
The other goldmine in this film is actor Daryl Sabara who portrays Kyle. Sabara never relents, he never lets humanity or vulnerability enter into his performance at all. He commits to making his character a horrid, vile, stupid, pervert and then manages to go over the top without taking his acting over the top. Kyle seems like a normal asshole kid, not a demon or a monster, just a kid who sucks. Sabara also manages to make him pants shittingly hysterical which ain't easy while also making him so awful.
All of the casting here is spot on which was pivotal for the subtext of the movie. Beneath the main plot there is this underlying idea that Williams isn't the worst person herel. The kids who hate Kyle until he dies then pretend they were always friends, the awful slutty girlfriend who attaches herself to whatever man can make her look better, the sensitive-yet-scummy teacher that hates Williams sudden stroke of luck, everybody in this movie is awful but in such a human way it never feels forced or mean spirited for mean spirited sake. These are human beings with huge flaws that make bad choices and that is always funnier and more personal than just people behaving badly.
Some of the people I watched this with didn't like how abrupt the end was but for me it worked for the film. Goldwaith went to great lengths to make this movie feel real and genuine even with the hyper-realistic circumstances. The ending may seem anticlimactic but usually that's how it is in life. Things happen, they suck for the moment and life goes on. World's Greatest Dad is a comedy for the modern age, one that holds a mirror up to us and forces us to laugh, cringe and understand ourselves even if it makes us uncomfortable.