' ' Cinema Romantico: The Interview

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Interview

In “The Interview”, Seth Rogen (who co-directed with Evan Goldberg) stars as Aaron Rapoport, producer of a talk show called Skylark Tonight whose concept of journalism essentially mirrors any sensationalist grocery store aisle rag. Frankly, he seems okay with his place in the world until a former college classmate calls him on the carpet and he sinks into a mild depression, wondering where his ethics went wrong, determined to turn his cohort, spectacularly vacuous Dave Skylark (James Franco), into a Dan Cortes version of Mike Wallace. To do so, they will score the interview of the new century, one with Kim Jong Un (Randall Park), the supreme leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea since it just so happens his favorite show is Skylark Tonight. But in doing so, they will be recruited by the CIA, represented by a spirited Lizzy Caplan, to assassinate the dictator – er, President, who may or may not – in the parlance of the poetic screenplay by Dan Sterling – actually have a butthole.

Seth Rogen has long been a valuable contributor to Team Apatow and Team Apatow has long been comprised of males molded in the idea of the Manboy, immature dudes content to refrain from progressing, reveling in bong hits and Internet videos like every day is Saturday night. It’s clear, however, that Mr. Rogen has begun feeling affliction identical to that of Aaron Rapoport in terms of his cinematic output, and it’s clear because you can see his attempts to correct it. “Neighbors”, Rogen’s other 2014 film, featured him as a husband and new father navigating super-scary adulthood through the prism of an escalating war with the frat house next door, and now “The Interview” finds him coping with professional insecurity, a the craving to be taken seriously. The great irony obviously is what’s already so well known – that is, the brou-ha-ha of the hacking threat by North Korea (or not) that caused Sony to shelve the film until they rightfully caved and offered via Internet platforms and through On Demand.

Suddenly “The Interview” was a paragon of free speech. To download it was a download for liberty. Yet…it might have been better to have forever remained an unseen urban legend, the movie no one saw but everyone championed. And this is because upon actually viewing the film you realize political satire is barely the point. It’s only real stab at satire involves the flourishing egregious idiocy of talk shows and CNN. Really, though, it’s just another adventures in brotasticity, revolving around a myriad of inane jokes and set pieces (like Aaron getting into a scrap with a tiger – which leaves Lizzy Caplan, forced to remain on the sideline because this about bros, bro, in spite of its token nod to a North Korean female accomplice in the form of Diane Bang – to say things like “Do not fight the tiger!”) before erupting into a third act extravaganza of violence. It’s pretty much “Pineapple Express” with a political garnish.

Aaron and Dave have a bromance, certainly, but there is a second bromance as well, and if “The Interview” works in any capacity it is in the flirtations of Dave Skylark and Kim Jong Un. The character of Jong Un could have become a cartoon, a “Hotshots!” Saddam Hussein with more dialogue, and yet Randall Park, bless his heart, finds real layers in unexpected places. He is set up as a sort of Manboy Despot, what with his tank-as-cool-car and scantily clad (enforced) hangers-on and adoration of gangsta rap. Yet Park slowly chips away at that facade to reveal his character both as a victim of daddy issues and a master manipulator who wins Dave's approval, partially to use it against him, and partially because he acquires affection for his dufusy American pseudo ally. And when he goes down in a “Firework”-laden blaze of glory it's as if he's truly, astoundingly taken Katy Perry's lyrics to heart and that he has reached the crazed conclusion this is the only way he can show the world “what (he's) worth”. He makes all the Americans in this film look like one-dimensional stooges.

Leave it to “The Interview” to make the only interesting person the same one it was theoretically supposed to be sending up.

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