Be Kind Rewind

Jack Black and Mos Def in Be Kind Rewind (dir. Michel Gondry, 2008).

I was one of those who were underwhelmed by Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Be Kind Rewind has elements that make it function as a corrective to that film for me (I haven't seen The Science of Sleep), but the same elements also finally confine it to throwaway status. And you know, that's OK, throwaway is OK. One might even say that the movie is a "sweded" version of itself. "Sweding" is what video store worker Mos Def and his unstable pal Jack Black do when Jack Black has his brain magnetized as the result of trying to sabotage a power station and then accidentally erases all the tapes in the store just by being near them. They film their own replacement versions of the movies, acting out the parts themselves and enlisting the help of people in the neighborhood (Passaic, New Jersey, lovingly filmed). It becomes a sensation when their customers, who are also often the stars, decide they like the sweded versions better than the Hollywood originals, and the two overnight auteurs have to work steadily to keep up with the demand. Eventually, the corporate movie people descend on them and they have to figure out a way to keep the spirit of cooperative creativity going and try to save the building the store is in from being demolished by the city.

From that synopsis alone, you get some sense of the film's weird split between outlandish slapstick and community-coming-together social-statement dramedy. For the first twenty minutes or so, it's like the most inept attempt at a wacky gagfest ever, and then it levels out into a congenial, lo-fi corner shop tale. The Passaic setting is impossible to resist: everything looks very real--simultaneously quaint and depressing. The scenes have an improvised, one-take feel, especially the ones with Mia Farrow and the locals who were recruited as actors. The conceit the story is hung from is that the building in which the video store is housed was once lived in by Fats Waller, and this gradually becomes the central focus as Black and Def shift their efforts to an original bio-pic of the musician's life.

It's a funky little picture. Describing it now, a week or two after watching it, makes me realize how endearing I found it after all.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I had a similar feeling with this movie-- upon thinking about it and talking to others about it, I realized that I liked it more than I thought. Not a film for the ages, but charming.

However, Mos Def's nearly unintelligible speech at some points really started to get out of hand... I've seen him in a couple of other movies and it was never a problem. Why was he laying it on so thick here (or tempering it so much in other places)?