Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Film with Me in It. (2008) Ian Fitzgibbon

There's a popular article in every Reader's Digest called, "Laughter is the Best Medicine." It rarely makes me laugh. Neither does most comedy on that loathsome brain-downsizing device that sits in living rooms, percolating American agitation such as "Everybody Loves Raymond" and "Two and a Half Men."

Even in the theater seat, comedy films -- particularly those that are American-made -- mostly make me wince instead of laugh. (I'm talking to you, American Pie.)  I do have a thing for The Jerk and Planes, Trains & Automobiles, but honestly, that's more about my youth, and if I were pressed I'd probably cop to liking What About Bob? and Weekend at Bernie's, too.

But that's it. Four films. That's all you're gonna get out of me.

It's not that I don't like to laugh. I'm no boring and crotchety old man who sits in a rocking chair on the front porch cursing at the grandkids about leaving all my tools on the front lawn. Most who deal with me on a daily basis, at the office or around the house, will tell you that I do enjoy laughing, that sometimes I'm often the first to take delight in every day living. I just don't find too much "real" humor in the hundredth time Homer takes a football to the groin or the abuse people inflict on each other in order to get a scripted knee-jerk prime-time giggle.

A while ago I actually went so far as to declare the modern comedy as dead. I said that its ideas are all used up, rehashed time and again into some void that endlessly swirls, every once in a while puking out a repeat, but always with a new character in the same old role. I don't know if that's a very good stance, but it reflected more on my disappointment with comedic-structured moving pictures than any real understanding of our basic need to chuckle.

Imagine my surprise then when I found myself not only laughing, but laughing so hard that my sides hurt, laughing so hard that I nearly fell out of my chair, at Ian Fitzgibbon's Irish black comedy, A Film with Me in It. And it wasn't just my personal reaction of laughing that made me take notice of  such an unusual event, but it was what I was laughing at that really made me stop and think.

Like the previously mentioned Weekend at Bernie's, which I saw in the theater when I was nineteen (was that really twenty years ago?!), I was laughing at the exploits of the dead. And isn't there something exciting and fun about laughing at people dying or dead?

In A Film with Me in It, there are dead bodies piling up all over a poor man's house. So many bodies that it would never look like they were all accidents, that he didn't have anything to do with the deaths. But they are all accidents. So how is he going to explain all this to the police? He and his friend figure they might as well make these accidents look like accidents, that way they'll never get in trouble for all these accidents.

Dead people piling up around a house. Sounds like a barrel of laughs, huh? Sounds like more fun than a bucket of monkeys, right? I mean, are we really supposed to laugh at people dying? Isn't there supposed to be something sacred about this event? How could I have laughed at such a horrible situation?

Absurdity presents itself all the time in entertainment, but here it presents itself for large guffaws. And, with just a tad of guilt, I readily took pleasure in it. What happens in A Film with Me in It is downright absurd, twisted, completely messed up -- and totally hilarious. One of the more outright hilarious series of events I've seen in years. (That said, remember -- I don't actively seek these kinds of films out. I surely am no expert. But I definitely had a fun time.)

I sat in a roomful of Irish folk who seem to have no guilt in the kind of humor that was on the screen. I think that made the experience even more fun. As they laughed, I laughed. As they got louder, I realized how insane these dead bodies really were. As the absurdity piled up, so did the bodies -- and so did the laughter.

I can't believe it. For the first time in years, I had fun at a comedy.

I don't know if that says more about me or the film itself, but if you want a few good laughs -- laughs that are not standard fare, but are very well thought out and so much funnier than a shallow college kid having sexual relations with warm apple pie, or any of the wasted druggie (comedic?) films containing pledges for a loss of one's virginity -- see A Film with Me in It. It simply feels like real humor. Slapstick: yes. Immature: no.

It's quite good, even if it's about laughing at dead people. I'd be interested to hear if you laugh when you see it, and whether you feel guilty at all.

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