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Baghead /

Rated: R

Starring: Ross Partridge, Steve Zissis, Greta Girwig, Elise Muller, Jett Garner

Directed by: Mark Duplass, Jay Duplass

Produced by: Mark Duplass, Jay Duplass, John Bryant
Written by: Mark Duplass, Jay Duplass
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

Sony Pictures Classics' Baghead
Steve Zissis, Elise Muller and Greta Gerwig in Sony Pictures Classics' Baghead
Elise Muller in Sony Pictures Classics' Baghead

As seen at the 2008 Los Angeles Film Festival:

     About halfway into Baghead, a character utters a line of dialogue that is supposed to function as the ultimate meta-on-meta-statement on behalf of writer/directors Mark and Jay Duplass. Said character and her three friends—all played convincingly by Greta Gerwig, Elise Muller, Steve Zississ, and Ross Partridge—are angst-ridden independent filmmakers who have decided to venture to a Big Bear cabin and crank out a quality screenplay after watching a frustratingly tacky underground festival-entry by the self-indulgent Jett Garner (playing himself). After much bloated drinking and inconsequential thinking, they begin to write a horror-comedy about a bag-headed man who terrorizes others (which is, conveniently, the same story that they later embody in the external-plot.) The aforementioned line comes into play when one references the fact that the script, while chalk full of action and narrative-building, will ultimately be boosted solely by a subtle exploration of the characters’ emotions. The Duplasses, in accordance with the rest of their structure, want the line to amuse the viewer and to make them aware and thankful of the fact that their picture is indeed exploring deeper emotional themes than those that would typically relate to a story prominently featuring a man with a brown paper-bag draped over his head.

     Contrary to its intent, the line comes across as more ironically ironic than it does ironic. In other words, as much as the Duplasses may want to provide the emotional aspects of their story an integral role in their picture and thereby render Baghead a more substantive piece of filmmaking on the whole, their stabs at substance feel exactly like what the character humorously references: laughable, noticeably scattershot attempts to turn a simple movie into something that it’s not. Indeed, Baghead is amusingly structured and sometimes downright riveting in its blend of both the horror and comedy genres, but it fails to engage on any deeper level because of the lack of authenticity taken on by the aforementioned character-development. All of the “complex” conversation and contemplation that goes on throughout the movie feels like textbook independent filmmaker patchwork. And even if the Duplasses really did intend for it to seem that way—a doubtful notion—such only reflects their over-devotion to a structure that would only stretch so far in its undeniable ingeniousness. In fact, the “profound” dimensions found within Baghead ultimately only hinder its sense of cleverness, distracting viewers from the writer/directors’ strong command of situations. Even at a short eighty-four minutes, the picture tends to feel longwinded and sprawling in its current state, which is something of a shame given the potential presented by the premise. Despite a hilarious setup featuring the Garner character, solid acting throughout, and an unpredictable end-twist, Baghead is unfortunately an imperfect entertainment for its abundance of undercooked excess.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 7.28.2008

Screened on: 6.27.2008 at the Landmark in West Los Angeles, CA.


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