'Observe and Report' Review By Soylent Green:The Devil's Eyes
When I Paint My Masterpiece..
Seth Rogen's roles are usually tinted with a mean spirited nature, but Ronnie Barnhardt is his most mean yet. When Ronnie and his partner Dennis (Michael Pena) brutally beat up a pack of skateboarders spray painting there mall, it isn't played for laughs (even though I started cracking up for about ten minutes). Is it because it's the same afternoon that started with Ronnie and Dennis blowing lines of cocaine and wrapping it up with some direct shots of heroine in the bathroom stall? That has something to do with it. But as with Tracey Flick in "Election" or Max Fisher in "Rushmore", we can side with this character who makes the insignificant significant. Playing head of mall security is almost as pathetic as letting a high school election or removing Latin from the curriculum take over your life, for whatever part of your life we're seeing. The difference between Tracey Flick, Max Fisher and Ronnie Barnhardt is that Ronnie is not in high school, he's an adult. Even though he lives at home, much the same that Reese Witherspoon and Jason Schwartzman's characters did, his nightly routine involves falling asleep on the couch in front of a television and covering his mother with a blanket when she passes out from drinking.
However, Ronnie wants the same thing that Tracey and Max did, which is more. None of them know what the future holds for them, but they're all convinced it will involve their determinations and dreams. The music in the film is on such a par with our characters, that when it opens with Ronnie studying his fortress in the morning, to The Band's "When I Paint My Masterpiece", we know that the song is playing in his head too. The mentality that even though his job is worthless and laughable, he believes he was meant for something more and is comfortable with just dreaming about that.
I was on his side for the whole picture, but did I like him? I don't know. I could understand and relate even at parts. The utter crush of being denied your dream when you have guaranteed it to yourself and others is shattering...and we see Ronnie shattered. He's smart enough to conclude that the girl of his dreams (Anna Faris, in a role as different from her ordinaries as May) is no more than just a total 'tit', and that the born again virgin in a wheel chair who gives him free coffee every morning, really is the answer to his romantic prayers, as well as his biggest supporter.
There's no point in giving a summary of this picture. You know the story pretty much from just the trailers. But it took me places that I still can't decide if I wasn't ready to go. Ronnie wants to be a super-hero-cop, not a security guard, and he takes you along for his imaginary ride of dreaming. I felt good for Ronnie, even when he killed three crack-heads and brought one the victims' sons into the police station for possession and attempt to sell. I felt for him when he turned into a "Bartleby The Scrivner" character, refusing to leave the grounds he protects, to a point where he is beaten to a bloody pulp by a horde of cops. I felt for him when he got his postcard from Dennis, who left the job at the mall by robbing it blind, knocking Ronnie unconscious with a chair and stealing a raffle-contest dream car to escape back to Mexico. "Despite what happened, you really are my best friend", he writes, and I think Ronnie accepts. I did.
After some bloody beat-downs, comatose sex scenes coated with orange vomit and a major part of the conflict resolved with a gory gun shot, it's no wonder that Judd Apatow didn't lend his name to this project. It won't change the world, it won't change film or even make a dent in film history. But it's different. I wasn't sure if what I was watching was supposed to be laughed at or just observed as a character study. I actually think the film, as different as it is, has a certain kind of goofy confidence to it, not in the way "Pineapple Express" did, more in the way that "Happiness" did. I would recommend it, but then I might not have any friends left. I did enjoy it very, very much, and will be thinking about it for quite some time to come.