So the Westmeadows DVD rental place is great, because (I suspect) it is going out of business, or at very least for some reason that its owners can’t be happy about it is running at a very slender profit margin. Last week I tried to borrow three DVDs and was told that if I borrowed 4, instead of $9 it would be $7. So I got 4. One was This Must Be the Place which, peculiar as it was, I actually enjoyed, particularly Sean Penn’s character’s giggle. The other one we watched was The Five Year Engagement which had its moments. Also, I borrowed The Dictator and Hunger Games, but we didn’t get round to watching those. But I was intrigued by The Dictator, and went back on Tuesday night to borrow it again. It was Tuesday so it cost $1.
I don’t want to just review things that are bad, but I have consumed a lot of bad things lately. I have to tell you, The Dictator is a seriously terrible film. It is one of those films that are so bad that the one decent thing about them – the extended speech at the end where SBC’s character lists all the things that are good about dictatorships and bad about democracies, except all the things he’s listing relate to recent US history, is ruined by the fact that the speech itself is a sad, hollow imitation of/tribute to Chaplin’s Great Dictator.
The real, genuine, absolute problem about The Dictator, however, is (I seem to recall this as a criticism from when it hit cinemas a few months ago) there are no sympathetic characters. We are apparently somehow meant to have some kind of empathy with the SBC character (sorry, I can’t be bothered looking his name up) when he loses his status and power but why would we? It only confuses matters that his one ally in New York, the scientist he thought he had executed a few years previously but who only bears him ill-will in a slapstick kind of way, seems to be the ‘sensible one’, only he wants to restore SBC’s character to dictatorhood again, for no real apparent reason (well, it will allow him to continue his research into nuclear weapons – I can relate to that). The only person in the film we might have reason to empathise with is the wholefoods store manager Zoe, but since she apparently falls in love with SBC’s character, why should we trust anything else about her? Ultimately she is mainly to be a source of jokes about armpit hair.* Beyond these it’s a stretch to think of anyone in the film who is an interesting character.
When it comes down to it, the script is ridiculously – I won’t say predictable – but it is thoroughly unimaginative and uninteresting. As Mia said, we did watch it to the end (a couple of times I suggested curtailing this activity with the underpinning sentiment that I was easy either way, and we agreed to keep going a little way longer, then it ended).
There were some other films I wanted to write about. Any Questions For Ben was kind of engaging, in a disappointing way. I can’t even remember the others we saw recently so they must not have been very important.
* Armpit hair is not suitable for grossout humour because it's not gross enough. I'm more disturbed by a cinematic trope that armpit hair is gross, than I am by armpit hair. It makes me feel like someone's trying to manipulate me into finding something gross that is actually pretty nothingish.