After Donny Darko, director Richard Kelly made Southland Tales, what many would agree is a flawed movie. Despite being flawed, it is none the less an ambitious film filled with many great moments, a stunning cast and a complex thematic material. Many landmarks in the celluloid terrain are also apparent in Darko as well. Time travel, the world ending, characters with their eyes missing talk to other characters about their destinies, social commentary, it’s all there. In fact, despite how surprisingly good S. Darko was, Southland Tales almost feels like the true sequel to Darko. It fully embraces many of the same concepts and takes them to a new place. New to the playing field for Kelly is a much more pronounced political satire or the severe musical moments that might have been better left on the cutting room floor.
The eclectic group of performer are both cult professionals and some of the hottest names Hollywood could offer. It’s always fantastic to see the delicious Sarah Michelle Gellar and while it was nice to see Seann William Scott deliver such a nuanced and layered performance, it’s Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson whose quirky, broad and twitchy performance is probably the most brave. The Rock plays his character largely for comic relief and while it is interesting and fun, it is easy to see how audiences might be uncomfortable watching it. Refusing to be type cast as a muscle bound action hero, Johnson keeps trying to give us another side of him like in his performance in Be Cool where he played a flamboyant gay bodyguard/aspiring actor. the rest of the cast is rounded out as round as a fucking circle! This movie has everyone that you never thought would all be in a film together; from Kevin Smith to Justin Timberlake, Miranda Richardson to Jon Lovitz, Mandy Moore to John Larroquette, no stone in casting is left unturned. There won’t be many who fully understand the movie on a first viewing and this might scare viewers off. Of course it could also be the length of the movie and some of the musical sequences that feel over the top and almost as inappropriate as Sam Raimi‘s song and dance number in Spiderman 3.
Over all I’d have to applaud Kelly for trying to make this film, but feel like it tried to cover too much ground and not always successfully. Most people will not like this movie, but that doesn’t mean that it’s horrible and the combination of being very controversial, extreme, uncompromising and so hated by most will likely make it a cult film in the future. There is gold in theme thar reels, perhaps a director’s cut or re-cut is in order?