EIFF 2010 round-up: Huge and The Sentimental Engine Slayer reviews
Carl England checks out the underwhelming Huge and The Sentimental Engine Slayer at the Edinburgh International Film Festival...
After my previous round-up of some pretty good movies from the Edinburgh International Film Festival, I’m afraid that in this latest I must head to the opposite end of the scale and talk about the underperformers.
The story of Huge follows Clark (Noel Clarke) and Warren (Johnny Harris) as they go from their humble beginnings to slightly less humble middles through the art of comedy. Clarke works in a restaurant and is told by his family and friends that he is funny, but he doesn’t want to change his life and doesn’t do anything about it. Warren is a new stand-up comedian, who can’t help but fail at his act.
When an uncharacteristically drunk Clark heckles Warren, they spark a relationship that starts them off on a journey towards their idea of a great comedy duo like Morecambe and Wise. Of course, at the first hurdle (and for the next few steps after said hurdle) they fail to make a lasting impression. And unfortunately the film does the same.
While Huge should have landed somewhere between the dramatic and the funny, with the latter being important in a film about (and featuring a huge tonne of cameos from) comedians, it decided to lean on its dramatic elements a whole lot more than it should have. Even when comedy does make an appearance, half the time it isn’t even funny and the film continues to fall flat on its face.
Even the dramatic push should have been better, but unfortunately there was a standard set here that was below average. Noel Clarke was okay, Johnny Harris was okay, the direction was okay, the humour was okay, the supporting cast were okay and overall, the film failed to be anything more than the sum of its parts. Which left the whole thing feeling like it had nothing special to offer.
If I were to compare it to anything that has tried to mix the elements of comedy and drama with a focus on stand up comedy, last year’s Crying With Laughter would be my go-to example. It perfectly concocted a mix between the serious and the humorous that worked brilliantly on both levels. It proves that a film with those elements not only can work, but can be bloody brilliant while attempting it. However, here, it never comes together, and very few scenes stick out in my mind as being good.
Firstly, when Warren asks his friend to heckle him, and he has a problem hurling abuse at him, and secondly, when Warren is taken out of the comedy awards after-party to the biggest stars in stand-up comedy’s on-looking. Both scenes are unfortunately the only ones worth a second look as the rest of the film falls into the ‘stinker’ category, which is a damn shame as I was really looking forward to this.
The Sentimental Engine Slayer
I have read on Wikipedia that The Sentimental Engine Slayer is a ‘coming of age tale’ about Barlam, a twenty-something misfit. The film shows his decadent, awful transition from boy to man, and one which should never be called a ‘coming of age tale’ for fear that some idiot out there would believe that this is a way in which slightly awkward teens come to be men.
In the first scene of the film (which actually happens about three quarters of the way through the narrative) Barlam strangles a prostitute after he comes too early during a blowjob. The next scene is from about a quarter of the way through the narrative, and shows Barlam at work in a grocery store. The next scene is from about halfway through the narrative and shows Barlam and his sister looking at a boy with Barlam stating ‘he looks just like me’.
I hate not only the narrative of this story, but the way in which it is told, with no regard for time or how well the audience could connect with characters. In this circumstance, we are given no chance to do this, although if we were, I’m still not sure we’d be able to.
Now, the first thing to note here is that the guitarist from The Mars Volta is not a good actor in any way, and the entirety of the cast show him up in every scene (even if they aren’t that good themselves). The direction is average at best and shows that the guitarist from The Mars Volta is not a good director either. The writing is pretty terrible and can barely even be considered as amateurish, and shows us that the guitarist from The Mars Volta is not a good writer. So what can he do? Well, he can play guitar. But unfortunately, this same talent doesn’t transcribe well to the Casio keyboard which he used to write the film’s score on. It too is completely awful and really is just the turd icing on a shit cake.
He takes his characters, including his own, to odd and even unnecessary places that have no basis in any normal human reality, and has them making decisions based on another’s judgement, leaving them with no common sense of their own. The only thing which we can take away as good from this film is one character’s acting in the film. While not perfect, Nomar Rizo is pretty good in his role as Barlam’s boss Oscar, telling him an intense story toward the end of the film.
However, that is it – the only redeeming feature of a ridiculously forgettable film.