Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: First Trailer For 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron,' Brings Mass Destruction Along With Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver Watch: First Trailer For 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron,' Brings Mass Destruction Along With Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver Watch: 'Star Wars' Prequels Recut Into 2 Hour 40 Minute 'Turn to the Darkside: Episode 3.1' Watch: 'Star Wars' Prequels Recut Into 2 Hour 40 Minute 'Turn to the Darkside: Episode 3.1' Edward Norton Says He Didn't Return To Play Hulk Because He Wanted More "Diversity" In His Film Roles Edward Norton Says He Didn't Return To Play Hulk Because He Wanted More "Diversity" In His Film Roles Oscar Buzz: Who Could Be Set For Nods In The Supporting Actress Race? Oscar Buzz: Who Could Be Set For Nods In The Supporting Actress Race? Juliette Binoche Says Her Performance In 'Godzilla' Made Quentin Tarantino Cry Juliette Binoche Says Her Performance In 'Godzilla' Made Quentin Tarantino Cry Listen To Chvrches "Get Away" From The Rescored Version Of Nicolas Winding Refn's 'Drive' Plus Check Out The Trailer Listen To Chvrches "Get Away" From The Rescored Version Of Nicolas Winding Refn's 'Drive' Plus Check Out The Trailer The Essentials: The 10 Best Michael Keaton Performances The Essentials: The 10 Best Michael Keaton Performances George Lucas Says Studios "Don't Have Any Imagination And Don't Have Any Talent" George Lucas Says Studios "Don't Have Any Imagination And Don't Have Any Talent" Recap: 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 5, Episode 7 ‘Friendless Child’ Recap: 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 5, Episode 7 ‘Friendless Child’ Watch: Spoiler-ific Local News Report On 'Batman v. Superman' That Caused WB To Lauch A Lawsuit Watch: Spoiler-ific Local News Report On 'Batman v. Superman' That Caused WB To Lauch A Lawsuit Watch: Baz Luhrmann's Chanel No. 5 Short Film "The One That I Want" Starring Gisele Bündchen Watch: Baz Luhrmann's Chanel No. 5 Short Film "The One That I Want" Starring Gisele Bündchen Christopher Nolan Says 'Interstellar' Is About "What It Means To Be A Dad”; Plus Check Out New Pics Christopher Nolan Says 'Interstellar' Is About "What It Means To Be A Dad”; Plus Check Out New Pics Paul Schrader, Nicolas Winding Refn & Nicolas Cage Campaign Against Their Film 'Dying Of The Light' Paul Schrader, Nicolas Winding Refn & Nicolas Cage Campaign Against Their Film 'Dying Of The Light' WTF: Horror Hit 'Annabelle' Yanked From French Theaters Due To Rioting WTF: Horror Hit 'Annabelle' Yanked From French Theaters Due To Rioting Gone Girls And Gone Boys: 11 Films That Dissect Marriage Gone Girls And Gone Boys: 11 Films That Dissect Marriage Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes

Review: 'American Animal' Is Where Independent Cinema Goes To Die

The Playlist By Gabe Toro | The Playlist May 17, 2012 at 4:05PM

Matt D’Elia, the writer, director and “star” of “American Animal,” plays Jimmy, a wiry twentysomething living off the considerable wealth of his rich father. He never leaves his apartment, despite repeatedly coughing up blood and showing noticeable signs of illness. Parading around his apartment in elaborate costumes, creating false identities for himself, and speaking in made-up languages, he considers each step he takes a sample of performance art, a “free show” for his “audiences.” He also hates jobs, disdains reading, and cares little for the comfort level of others around him, under the guise of “putting on the ritz.” The fact that he goes through the entirety of “American Animal” without being punched, murdered, or locked in a spaceship and shot into the sun is some sort of goddamned miracle.
19
American Animal

Matt D’Elia, the writer, director and “star” of “American Animal,” plays Jimmy, a wiry twentysomething living off the considerable wealth of his rich father. He never leaves his apartment, despite repeatedly coughing up blood and showing noticeable signs of illness. Parading around his apartment in elaborate costumes, creating false identities for himself, and speaking in made-up languages, he considers each step he takes a sample of performance art, a “free show” for his “audiences.” He also hates jobs, disdains reading, and cares little for the comfort level of others around him, under the guise of “putting on the ritz.” The fact that he goes through the entirety of “American Animal” without being punched, murdered, or locked in a spaceship and shot into the sun is some sort of goddamned miracle.

How unfortunate that this impulsive manchild appears to be surrounded by enablers. The bulk of “American Animal” takes place within one day, where Jimmy and James (Brendan Fletcher) live in obscene wealth inside their sprawling apartment. We’re led to believe these two have been friends for a long time (James also appears to come from money), but James seems constantly blindsided by Jimmy’s reckless behavior and unending, meandering monologues. Despite sharing the same apartment, James just doesn’t seem to understand that Jimmy is a creature of obscene impulse, too intellectually lazy to be a criminal, too selfish to consider the needs of others a priority. Did they just meet yesterday?

American Animal

Over the course of one booze-filled, pot-smoked evening, the truth seeps out: James has gotten a job, a paid internship with an office -- everything that Jimmy hates. He suddenly feels betrayed, which is not unexpected -- the whole universe revolves around him, apparently. In one particularly juvenile monologue, he traces the entirety of human civilization as building towards the moment he gets to “put on the ritz” in an extravagant, unearned apartment, through a cloud of purple haze.

Jimmy’s worldview naturally benefits from the doormats that surround him: Poor James is achingly ineloquent, seemingly unable to tune into Jimmy’s wavelength. Even when Jimmy announces his one hundred percent disapproval of a job of any kind (survival of the fittest allows him to not work, he claims), James continues to judge him for not wanting to contribute to society. As if this is a man who thinks there still is a society, a man who believes lives can and should still be saved. James also thoughtfully claims to be interested in saving a seat at work for Jimmy, should he change his mind. Dubious.

James and Jimmy parry pointlessly through the day and night as two Angelas (Mircea Monroe, Angela Sarafyan) watch. Both are there to toke up, and while neither are interested in the polite, handsome, unassuming James, both fall victim to the “charms” of his solipsistic friend. This despite an otherworldly unattractive physical appearance -- often wearing only slim pink briefs, bearded Jimmy resembles excess merkin. Once he shaves it off, his string-bean physique is accentuated, his dark crew cut gives him a contrastingly ghoulish, gaunt countenance. Poor Sarafyan spends the entirety of the third act post-coital, partially undressed under a blanket, vomiting, being licked by a dog, and, even worse, having to suffer through another few endless Jimmy monologues.

American Animal

“American Animal” is a deeply unpleasant viewing experience. Despite the supposedly comic nature of D’Elia’s flailing performance (mix Tom Green with a wired anime version of John Hawkes), “American Animal” is shot with an austere, sterile lens, weirdly accentuating that D’Elia seems to have come across a great location for a movie, but then forgot to make it appear lived-in, particularly for a manchild slacker who acts on impulse. The digital photography is crisp but dark, emphasizing the ugliness of D’Elia and his bastard of a character. There’s not a single moment of comfort in “American Animal” -- intentional, sure, given that Jimmy is a confrontational live wire who puts viewers on edge.

But most of “American Animal” is similarly formless, absent of ideas, a sponsor of despair in lieu of hope. It’s bleak, apocalyptic filmmaking in the very worst sense: It doesn’t believe in anything, it doesn’t endorse anything, except for the abyss of nihilism under the guise of intellectual restlessness. Matt D’Elia has made a deadening, masturbatory, visually underwhelming film with absolutely no redeeming value. Whatever moments of dialogue that aren’t yelled to the rafters (usually chopped-up, out-of-context movie quotes), are mundane miscommunications, repeated to the point of replicating a reality that no viewer would recognize. If “American Animal” is proof of Matt D’Elia’s aptitude and understanding of the world, it showcases him as someone who looks at humanity and only sees the worst, who views us as a society of simpletons twiddling our thumbs until the apocalypse. It is a film without joy, without insight, without hope. If there is a kind God, he is ensuring once “American Animal” plays to empty theaters this coming weekend, each digital copy will be buried in a desert no map can locate. [F]

This article is related to: American Animal, Review


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates