Freddy Got Fingered (2001) *
It's official: Freddy Got Fingered is now a decade old, and getting older.
If there's one thing it was never intended to be, it's ten years old. This is a film that runs on sheer nowness. Films like this do not age like wine, they embalm themselves. It will never truly find a fresh audience: only those who were there, and innocent bystanders.
And yet, this most dismisssed and disastrous of comedies still remains on the cultural radar where so many of its more warmly embraced brethren have faded; devoted cultists still celebrate it; there is even talk of a director's cut (though it's hard to believe the studio compromised Tom Green's artistic freedom in any way whatsoever - if any film ever screamed "I am the director's cut!" it was Freddy).
And actually, it is still provocative and fascinating, and the same must be said of Green, who had something that can't actually be called comic invention but was, for all that, very definitely something, and something that his peers and progeny lack to a man. In a funny sort of way it was charm, a palpable idiot charm, and that combustible mix of self-deprecation and extreme confidence that you see in someone who is riding a wave of adoration in a job the nature of which (unlike that of pop star, say) prohibits the explicit acknowledgment of it.
The comedian needs to be laughed at, and so coolness is fatal. Peter Sellers never recovered from a taste of it, and that's why he was never able to revive his career after it was withdrawn. Girls screamed for Green around this time, even as he maintained his chosen persona of post-adolescent dropout goofball. Then he got to marry Drew Barrymore, which I bet he still finds hard to believe: a case of Mr Smith not only going to Washington but becoming president too. And then Twentieth Century Fox came to him and said: "Would you like to star in your own movie? Tell you what - why not write and direct it as well!"
Nobody thought it would do badly; indeed, among the many fascinating extra features on the DVD is a live soundtrack of the audience at the film's premiere, cheering, whooping with delight and screaming with laughter. But, as we all know, the film was released just as that coolness bubble burst, and it got near-universally bad reviews and became the film that defined Hollywood comic excess. Overnight, Green turned from a superstar to a pariah.
Like everything else in his career to that point, the moment was somewhat overplayed. Not every review was a pan: it actually got a rave from the New York Times, and an imdb contributor made the following valuable observations:
This movie, although not solid in plot, is that of comical genius. People are too easily offended by the actions of Tom Green, not able to see the comical genius this movie has. Breaking barriers is comedy, and that is exactly what Tom Green does in this film. The things he does, from jerking off a horse, to pretending to be a deep sea diver are all great ways to get the point across, this movie is something different. People who have any sense of moral value or a tendency to vomit should stay away, but who has moral values anymore? In the end this movie is nothing more then an inspired way of making me laugh. The movie is funny enough as it is sober, I however would suggest you see it stoned or drunk off your ass.
The extreme confidence Green must have felt at the time he made the film is plainly visible on screen. It's an astonishingly hubristic film, that contains not a drop of wit but pulses with manic energy, and is so unusual that at times it feels more like an art house movie than a big studio star vehicle.
Imagine watching it with no idea of who Green is - think of it purely as a narrative about a young man who wants to be a cartoonist - and you'll see what I mean. It's a uniquely strange piece of work, for all its nods to the American gross-out tradition, and to Green's own work on tv. It also has real momentum, and each scene is different from the last, revolving around some new, separate idea.
The best scene for me, where all the threads come together in joyous concert, is the bit where he takes Marisa Coughlan to the fancy restaurant -a bravura sequence from first to last, buzzing with incompatible comic ideas and ending in an orgy of slapstick so unjustified by the narrative as to play closer to Bunuel than American Pie.
I'm not saying any of this is intended, or even that any of it is done with great style.
But even if you hated it more than any film you ever saw, of all the insults you could fling, you know that 'boring' is the least likely one to stick. Most bad comedy films just run out of energy and lie there. Freddy never runs out of energy. It has too much. It's overlong, and there's way too much in it, but it's never dull, from the exhilarating opening titles, with Green skateboarding through a shopping mall to the accompaniment of the Sex Pistols' 'Problems' to the finale, as he and his father return from their Pakistan hostage ordeal and, among the placards greeting them at the airport, is one that reads WHEN THE FUCK IS THIS MOVIE GOING TO END?