Trisha’s Take: Observe and Report review


The look on Anna Faris' face says it all. © De Line Pictures/Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros. Entertainment

The look on Anna Faris’ face says it all. © De Line Pictures/Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros. Entertainment

Last week, I linked to and one of their writers’ sarcastic reaction to a scene at the end of the red band trailer to Observe and Report, the latest Seth Rogen movie, directed by Jody Hill. The scene in question has Seth Rogen pumping away at an unconscious Anna Faris in bed, who stops but then starts having sex with her again when she says, “Did I tell you to stop, motherfucker?”

After saying that I was sure that I would never see a movie that has a scene like that in there for comedic effect, I was then challenged by Gordon to put my money where my mouth is. His point was that I shouldn’t be a dick like Joel Siegel—who famously walked out of Clerks 2 40 minutes into it during a press screening—and have prejudices against a movie I’ve never seen. I agree that having such prejudices is wrong if you want to be a movie critic or journalist, so I agreed to watch the movie and report back to you all this week.

But before I talk about the scene in question, let me talk about the whole film, and there are going to be spoilers galore. First off, I had no idea that Rogen’s character Ronnie Barnhardt is bipolar, and that had an effect on how I viewed the film. The first time I saw him taking his daily meds, I felt a frisson of uneasiness because I once drove from Baltimore to Washington DC with a bipolar person who was having a manic episode because he’d forgotten to take his meds at a certain time, and the experience made an impression on me. I understand that not all bipolar people are like this person I knew, but I can’t help but view the character through that perspective.

All throughout the film, I felt both impressed and disgusted by Ronnie. I was impressed when he shot so well at the firing range because I admire people who have that ability, but I ended up being disgusted when instead of taking his drunken mother to her bed and tucking her in, he just put a blanket over her as she lay passed out on the floor.

I was disgusted and impressed with him all at the same time in every scene where he was speaking to Nell, the cashier at the Cinnabon rip-off place because here was a sweet girl that he was kinda being dickish to without even realizing it, but she still saw something in him, and I could see that her role in the movie was purely there to serve as a foil for Anna Faris’ Brandi.

In this week’s episode of “This American Life” (for which I recorded a story; check it out here; end shameless plug) Ira Glass said that he’s most interested in stories and narratives where the people in them change. There are lots of things that happen to Ronnie Barnhardt during the movie: he semi-successfully asks out the woman of his dreams, knocks out a bunch of toughs who are about to kill him in the bad part of his town, tries and fails to complete an application into the police academy, goes on one of the most wicked and impressive drug benders I’ve seen on film, gets betrayed by his best friend, and finally catches the flasher that started the whole mess.

But do I feel as if Ronnie will be a changed person as a result of these events? Absolutely not, and that ultimately makes him a less empathetic character to me. Even at the end of the film, he is still posturing, still arrogant, still a dick, but this time he’s got everyone else around him affirming and agreeing that he should continue to be this way.

This doesn’t mean that this isn’t a funny film, because there are some genuine “LOL” moments; my favorite was when Ronnie was delivering a very overwrought monologue, stopped in the middle because he’d messed up a line, and then kept going. It was such a surprise and such a breaking of the fourth wall that it really made me chuckle. But as for me, I don’t think that those small, individual moments add up enough for me to say I really liked it as a whole.

As for the sex scene between Ronnie and Brandi and what lead up to it, I am still disgusted by it, but for reasons that are way more clear. The way he asks her out is kinda creepy because he traps her into getting into his SmartCar and won’t let her out of the car until she says yes. Don’t get me started on the “playing with her hair” thing.

When Brandi sees him taking his meds, she asks for some because she knows that it’s “the good stuff” and he ends up giving her the whole bottle because he wants to impress her. WTF? If he’s been taking this medication for as long as I suspect he has been, he knows that you should never stop taking it until your doctor says you can and you sure as hell shouldn’t be doling it out to other people or mixing it with alcohol—which she did in mass quantities.

Also, if he’s been living with his mother as an adult for most of that life and taking care of her when she’s drunk, he knows that people who are drunk aren’t really responsible for their actions and that the best thing to do is to get them to a safe place and leave them alone.

But instead, they have sex and he takes her drunken consent as actual consent.

And that, my friends, is the most dickish move of all, and again, he never gets told that it was wrong to do so, and by the end of the movie, he already plans on trying to convince his new girlfriend Nell that she should give up on her born again virginity.

I shudder to think of how that scene would get played out.

Related Posts: Link of the day: Observe and Report’s rape controversy

Posted on April 23, 2009 at 06:22 by Trisha Lynn · Permalink
In: Reviews

3 Responses

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  1. Written by Alan Scott
    on 2009-04-24 at 03:21

    Not on topic as far a “Observe and Report” goes, but I really enjoyed listening to your “This American Life” segment.

  2. Written by Steven
    on 2009-04-24 at 04:03

    Trisha Lynn,

    I have to completely agree with you about this movie. I work as a manager at a local movie theater, and one of the things that we normally look forward to is screening movies on Thursday nights. A bunch of us were really excited to see Observe and Report, and at first there was some nervous laughter, but by the end of it, we were all stone silent. I can’t remember the last time I felt so Uncomfortable watching a film like that. While Ronnie certainly had a variety of interesting things happen to him, there was no character development at all – by the end of the movie, we have seen zero growth in this person.

    While I admire how committed Seth Rogen was to playing this giant douche, it didn’t change the fact that he was a GIANT DOUCHE. I guess that is one of the things that baffles me about why people seem to love this movie, or to defend it by saying “you just don’t get it.” No, no, I get it. He’s an asshole. he goes around doing utterly ridiculous things that he gets away with because he’s an asshole….oh, and because he’s also batshit-crazy. While that may have a certain amount of appeal to some people, to me it was just excruciating and painful to watch. I’d rather sit through Eagle Eye again – and as awful as that movie was, at least there was some (haphazard, ill-defined, and arbitrary) character development in it.

    Of course, these are all my opinions, and I could be wrong….but I’m not.

  3. Written by Gordon McAlpin
    on 2009-04-25 at 11:45

    I wouldn’t say you’re wrong at all, Steven. But your reasons for not liking it are pretty much the same for why I did like it.

    It’s a question of taste (or lack thereof), not right or wrong.

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