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Mace and Crown | May 24, 2018

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Monarch Movie Minute: ‘Swiss Army Man,’ ‘Girlfriend’s Day’ and ‘Author: The JT LeRoy Story’

Tyler Passarge
Staff Writer

‘Swiss Army Man’ (2016) | R | 97 min. 🎬🎬🎬

Director Daniel Kwan’s latest film is certainly interesting. The film opens with Hank (Paul Dano) standing before the ocean on a deserted island ready to hang himself. From his surroundings and his haggard look, the audience easily gathers that Hank has been stranded on an island for some time and is ready to kill himself. His hopeless plan is cut short when a talking, flatulent dead body (Daniel Radcliff) washes ashore. Yes, you read that correctly.

Hank starts to develop a friendship with the body, whom he names Manny. Along the way, he starts to also develop creative uses for it, including a human jet ski and using his flatulence to create fire (no kidding). Using Manny, Hank begins a journey home that leads him to existential self-discovery.

A movie like this is a hard sell to an audience. On one hand, “Swiss Army Man” is a colorful and vibrant piece of filmmaking that borders on magical realism. On the other hand, much of the content of the film, mixing philosophical debates about love and death with gross-out humor, is a hard pill to swallow for some viewers.

Make no mistake, there is an abundance of physical humor that might be off-putting for someone looking for a more conventional film. Despite that, “Swiss Army Man” is a rich and thoughtful film that dares to utilize an oddball script and make it something that is surprisingly sweet. As long as the viewer can give the movie a chance, they won’t be disappointed by the wonderful risk they will take.

It’s gross-out nature could be considered a turn-off, but “Swiss Army Man” is modern filmmaking at its oddest and most rewarding.

This film is available on Amazon Prime.

‘Girlfriend’s Day’ | NR | 70 min.🎬🎬

Before his wife cheated and left him, Ray (Bob Odenkirk) was once referred to as the “Bill Shakespeare” of the greeting card industry. Now, Ray is seen as a washed up has been in his field since he can no longer produce romance cards like he used to. It’s because of this that his boss fires him.

A spark begins to ignite for Ray after falling for a shopkeeper, Jill (Amber Tamblyn), who is obsessed with greeting card writers. Meanwhile, a new holiday called “Girlfriend’s Day” is announced in hopes of making greeting cards profitable again. With love in his heart again, Ray’s ex-boss hires him to write the perfect card for the new holiday. However, there are some unsavory individuals in the industry with eyes on Ray.

When the film opens, there is an abundance of potential for this absurd premise. Much of that potential rides on the shoulders of Odenkirk who manages to sell it in the same way he sells his Saul Goodman character in “Breaking Bad.” The script for “Girlfriend’s Day” has a sharp satirical element that Odenkirk can pull off very well and makes the film work for the most part.

The plot of the film does take a weird turn around the middle when it begins to feel more like a film-noir type mystery. There’s never anything wrong with a film experimenting with style, but “Girlfriend’s Day” already has trouble balancing its absurd premise without adding that element. Since the film clocks in only at seventy minutes, though, it doesn’t out stay its welcome.

There’s a lot of promise to “Girlfriend’s Day,” but the film collapses under the weight of its own absurdity.

This film is available on Netflix.

‘Author: The JT LeRoy Story’ | R | 110 min.🎬🎬🎬🎬

In the ‘90s, 17-year-old Jerimiah “Terminator” LeRoy (or J.T. LeRoy) became a figure of cult fascination as a young transgender HIV-positive novelist. LeRoy’s autobiographical tales of abuse and prostitution gave a spotlight to a side of American culture that had never been seen before. As his stories found success, LeRoy was quickly becoming a celebrity in his own right. There was only one problem to this narrative: there was no J.T. LeRoy.

The persona and life of LeRoy was something entirely created by writer Laura Albert and sold as a reality for sixteen years. As Albert wrote novels and corresponded over emails and phone calls as the character, it was her sister-in-law who would embody the character physically at public events. It wasn’t until reporter Stephen Beachy exposed the literary hoax in 2006 that the world was introduced to the bizarre truth.

When she was finally exposed of her façade, Albert defended her actions by citing the LeRoy persona as her “phantom limb.” Everything in “Author” is built upon the defense that LeRoy was more than a pseudo name to Laura Albert. The world of LeRoy was a means of escape and spark that Albert needed in order to escape her troubled past and the conflicts with her self-perception.

While some critics have seen this documentary as a means for Albert to paint herself as the victim, there is so much more going on here. “Author” presents an insane story that speaks to the dirty, yet poetic’ aesthetic of a LeRoy novel.

Buried under the story presented by Albert, “Author” is an enticing conversation about the nature of fiction and the fluidity of identity.

This film is available on Amazon Prime.

Rating System:

🎬 — Straight to DVD.
🎬🎬 — Well, there goes 2 hours of my life!
🎬🎬🎬 — Add to my queue.
🎬🎬🎬🎬 — A must see.
🎬🎬🎬🎬🎬 — Mind blown!