Ethan Embry (SWEET HOME ALABAMA) stars in this indie comedy about two small town residents who may have more in common than they think. Quirky Cara-Ethyl (newcomer Kylie Sparks) is celebrating her 18th birthday all by herself--unless you count her mother … see full wiki
Pizza is a rolling piece of theater of the absurd that has reality asserting itself in deep potholes. It is a little bit teen comedy, a little bit buddy film, a little bit bildung-movie.
Cara-Ethyl (Kylie Sparks) turns 18 during the course of the evening. She is an overweight loser whose birthday party consists of Cara-Ethyl’s mother (Julie Hagerty) who is temporarily blinded by a grease fire and an imaginary friend Cara-Ethyl invents so her mother won’t think she is alone. She escapes this when the pizza for the party is delivered and C-E discovers that she and the pizza guy, Matt (Ethan Embry) share an outsider quality. He takes her with him for his evening deliveries. During these she meets slackers of various species and vicious teenagers. Both C-E and Matt expose soft underbellies in each other as the night moves on to dawn.
Some movies look like they were fun to make. Pizza is one of these. Each actor seemed completely comfortable in his/her role, so none of the performances was weak. Given that this film was independent and fairly small budgeted; this meant that there were no jarring performances (often a hallmark of the indie movement). The quality of the writing and directing (both tasks belonging to Mark Christopher) was also a bit higher than in many indie films. The subject matter and how it is presented, however, are pure indie at its best.
Pizza’s structure is very similar to Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused: each film covers slacker teenagers during the course of one evening; each film has major characters discovering endemically monumental things about themselves that may, but probably won’t, survive past lunch on the day after due to general character structure. Both films are also darkly funny. The thing that separates them are the doses of reality that expose weaknesses in the hard shells each outsider has placed around his or her personality.
C-E is spiteful and mean and never holds her tongue. Matt is stuck as a poseur who used to be the real thing (he’s a bit like a stripper who really does start out with the idea of using the tips to pay for college, but gets lost in the relative shame of the profession). Matt is over thirty, pretends to be a neo-hippie, survives only on pizza as far as I can tell, and is ‘managed’ by a teenager.
C-E and Matt are each hero(ine)/anti-hero(ine). Both characters are sensitive about the things that others would obviously find objectionable or sad and each covers this up and compensates for it by being smart and aloof.
When you are a teenage outsider, or just acting like one, there are two ways to go. The first is to try to fit in. This fails in movies made after the fifties and has to in order to keep the moral “be yourself” intact. In the 50’s the focus was on being like everyone else; that idea is foreign to us in the post 60’s find yourself mindset and the 80’s take everything for yourself mindset. Take your pick of any teen movie from the 80’s on up and you will find loser after loser trying to fit in, understanding the shame in it because of the self-abnegation, then coming to terms with it in a healthy manner. The second way is not to fit in and trash the opposition like you are in the last week of a vicious campaign for elected office. The first becomes a comedy of manners; the second is a dark comedy of clever slurs and other pessimistic devices that point out the absurdity of trying to fit in. The first type has a-list actors in it; the second type does not. The trashmouth option has no moral, so it is difficult to sell to the target audience.
Pizza is mostly the trashmouth variety, but it does doff its hat to the traditional storyline with each hero(ine) making at least a token effort to try to fit in but quickly realizing that it will never work.
What I have ignored to this point is the humor. There are many moments of laugh out loud funny. In less adept hands, the film would just be quirky instead of absurd—this might sound like a distinction without a difference but it is the difference between slapstick comedy and the more mature form of dark comedy. What stops it from being merely a quirky flick is that when reality injects itself into the events the characters react in the way that is far more consistent with how an actual person would react. A gossamer fantasy can survive nearly any storm except the introduction of disillusionment. Pizza has several instances of this. The last, appropriately, are meant to have the greatest impact.
It isn’t a great movie but it is fun and funny and I never felt like I was wasting my time.
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