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Southland Tales

3 Ratings: 2.3
A movie

Southland Tales is a 2007 science fiction/drama/black comedy film, written and directed by Richard Kelly. The title refers to the Southland, a name used by locals to refer to Southern California and Greater Los Angeles. Set in the then near future of … see full wiki

Director: Richard Kelly
Genre: Comedy, Music, Action, Adventure, Musical
Release Date: November 14, 2007
MPAA Rating: R
1 review about Southland Tales

Most bizarre film of the decade?

  • Jan 2, 2010
  • by
Southland Tales, at first glance, appears to be a fairly weird film. Directed by the guy behind Donnie Darko, and filled with relatively big names from the early 2000's - Sarah Michelle Gellar, The Rock, Amy Poehler, Jon Lovitz, and Justin Timberlake, amongst others - about a near-future America in the throes of incipient fascism, it seems like a perfect little time capsule. And in many ways, it is. But with its thematic inconsistencies, bizarre politics, plot that ranges between incoherent and idiotic, and casting that consistently and perversely plays actors against type, it's hard to imagine a stranger movie to come out of Hollywood in our era.

But don't take my word for it - how about Justin Timberlake and The Killers?

The director, by the way, apparently considers that scene the key point in the film. And no, it doesn't really make a whole lot more sense in context.

Most of the time, movies that are simply incoherent messes, especially ones that last nearly three hours, are out-and-out terrible. But Southland Tales stays almost compulsively watchable. There are several great scenes in the film that, if the movie was thematically built around them, would have made a great movie. A perfectly-cast Sarah Michelle Gellar is the only actor to really acquit herself well, as a pseudo-intellectual porn star who thinks she's ripe for massive crossover success as a pop star, public intellectual, and anti-fascist conspirator. She's wrong, of course, but it doesn't stop her from delivering lines like "Scientists now say the future will be far more futuristic than originally predicted."

Meanwhile, Amy Poehler is involved in a tragic farce run by the "neo-Marxist" activist/terrorists trying to swing the impending election...or something. The nonsense of that plotline gets offset by her hilarious fake argument that's supposed to lead to murder. Or something. It's a great scene divorced from the context of the film, but, well, it wasn't.

There are also occasional moments of stunning beauty, such as a point near the end of the film involving ostensible protagonist Seann William Scott witnessing, and falling from, the end of the world. The clip above, with Justin Timberlake lip-syncing to The Killers, certainly remains in the memory.

So I can't recommend Southland Tales as a story, or as a political statement, or even as a good way to spend two hours and forty-one minutes. But I also can't say it's in any way a waste of time. It's like a brilliant guy you knew got depressed about George W. Bush's re-election in 2004, and instead of ranting about it on Daily Kos, ranted about it in a piece of occasionally stunning art. See it if you want the crazy.

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January 05, 2010
Despite your low rating, after reading your review and seeing that totally random video, I want to see Southland Tales now!  Wow, I'm so out of touch with movies that I've never heard of this before :P

By the way, did you notice that this review was mentioned in the newsletter that @jrjohnson sent out yesterday?  Congrats! :)
January 08, 2010
I was going through some old stuff I wrote, and I noticed that I used the phrase "bizarrely awesome sh!theap" to describe this. Which was seconded by someone else, so yeah. It's probably worth the time, at least to stare blankly afterwards!
January 05, 2010
Great review of an apparently, very-difficult to put your finger on movie. I'm extremely intrigued and want to see it now, even if I don't think I'll enjoy it.
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3 Ratings: +2.3
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