Sunday, 7 March 2010

No.17 : The Happening



Problem : You have an opinion that you want to get across to an audience but it’s not really backed up by any facts or evidence.

Solution : Make a film where the environmental bogeyman takes the form of whispering trees and kills us all.

Outcome : Widespread ridicule

‘The Happening’ must be one of the worst reviewed films of all time and it’s easy to see why. It has dreadful acting, a ludicrous concept and dialogue that wouldn’t cut it in a porno film. There are a couple of moments that make it almost worth a watch, but not quite.

We open in New York where a busy crowd suddenly stops dead in their tracks and start killing themselves. We think at first it might be an Emo convention but no! We then move to a building site where the workers start diving off the scaffolding - that economy has a lot to answer for.

We then move to a Philadelphia school room where teacher Marky Mark is discussing the reason for environmental problems. He’s interrupted by the principal who sends everyone home as the government is declaring a terrorist emergency. Marky hooks up with his wife Zooey Deschanel and his pal John Leguizamo who brings along his cute daughter.

They head out of town of a train but as always with trains it stops and the most portentous guards you’ll ever meet declare that all is lost. They soon split up and John comes to a sticky end when he hitches a lift in the wrong car. Marky hooks up with a weird couple, the male of which likes to wax lyrical about the greatness of hot dogs. The narrative as it is, is kept moving by sporadic information that comes from phones, passers by and, handily, a radio tied to a fence in the middle of nowhere.

They encounter more scenes of mass suicide and realise that it’s nature herself that they are fighting and their only hope is to stay in small groups. They end up in a remote farm house occupied by an old mental woman and the bets are on to see if they’ll survive and whether the incident is isolated or a precursor of worse to come.

The message in this film hits you like you’ve been kicked in the nuts by a deep sea diver. The ‘mystery’ of the event is signalled like the four minute warning with every event heralded by some trees rustling and we quickly realise that nature is fighting back. If that wasn’t clear enough we get other subtle hints like massive cooling towers pumping out, well water vapour, and some houses built in green belt land. We had it coming I tells ya.

In mitigation there are a couple of disturbing scenes like the lemming builders and the mass hanging but these serve only to highlight the total mess all around. Marky and Zooey have no chemistry and they both have scenes acting to objects such as a mobile phone and a rubber plant and it’s quite clear that we are not witnessing a master class from either.

The whole concept is ridiculous and justified with some really ropey science about tobacco plants defending against beetles. OK, even if you accept that, why do the plants instruct people to take elaborate steps like a man turning on the petrol and then the ignition of a lawn mower before jumping in front of it - hardly the actions of an irrational man taken over by a silver birch. Similarly why does the man woman chose to smash all the windows when killing herself to endanger Marky - that was one specific gust of wind!

To nit pick a mess like this is like picking flies off a turd - messy and totally pointless. A really awful film that is almost so bad it’s funny but not quite.

THE Tag Line : Happening Is Non-Event 34%

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