Monday, August 26, 2013

The World's End [2013]

MPAA (R)  ChicagoTribune (3 1/2 Stars) (3 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (A-)  Fr. Dennis (4+ Stars)

IMDb listing
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (M. Zoller Seitz) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

The World's End [2013] (directed and cowritten by Edgar Wright along with Simon Pegg) is certainly one of the most creative and I would say ONE OF THE BEST (Anglo-American) films of this year.  Since the Oscars offer now up to 10 spots for BEST PICTURE, if there's any justice at all, this film ought to get a nomination in that category as well as a nod for BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY.  In a fairly dismal year in at least Hollywood movies, I honestly found the film a veritable BREATH OF FRESH AIR ;-).

So what's the film about? ;-).  It's about Gary King (played by Simon Pegg) reminiscing today about how 20 years past on the night of their (high school) graduation he and his 4 best friends set-off on an epic "bar crawl" of 12 pubs in their hometown of Newton Haven somewhere in the rolling countryside of "small town England."  Recalling the night to his AA group ... ;-) ... he noted that one of his companions dropped out at 4 pubs, another at 6 and none of them were able to get past 9 ... that they never made it to the last pub, at the edge of town, named "The World's End."  Rolling their eyes (no doubt frustrated that Gary didn't seem to "get it" as to what the AA group was about ;-) some of the other members of the AA group nevertheless concede that his had been an "epic" quest. 

And so Gary King (or "King Gary" as he had been known when he had been "at the top of the world" in high school) leaves his London-based AA meeting with the goal of recreating and FINISHING this "epic journey" with his old high school buddies.  The problem is, of course, that ALL FOUR OF HIS HIGH SCHOOL BUDDIES have since established themselves and have gone on with their lives.  NONE of them recall their "high school days" as fondly as Gary and indeed, it would seem that ALL OF THEM have for one reason or another dumped Gary as a friend years ago as well ;-(.  What to do? 

With an enthusiasm akin to Jake and Elmwood Blues from The Blues Brothers [1980], Gary cajols, guilts and to one, his former best friend, Andy Knightley (played by Nick Frost), he flat-out lies (telling Andy that his mother had died and that she always loved him as the best of all his friends ...) to get them together to do this thing. 

So they all meet at a London Tube station at the edge of town on a Friday night.  Gary, of course, is late ... ;-) ... None the other four is surprised ... ;-).  But when he does show-up, they are ALL astounded to see him arrive with his old legendary car.  "Is THAT the Beast?" one asks.  Gary proudly replies: "Well, except for the brakes, the suspension, the carburetor, transmission, the whole engine really, upholstering on a couple of the seats, and a fender or two, YES IT IS!"  The four, ALL a "few pounds worse for their wear" get in ... and they are off!

Soon they approach their home town of Newton Haven, which NONE of them had gone back to in years, in good part because it was, well, except for those 12 pubs ... BORING.  How boring?  Well, it's claim to fame appears to have been that it was "the site of the first round-about in England" (those horrible traffic circles that exist all over England/Ireland and are supposedly "safer" than traffic lights).  So ... quaint as the town may have been (or may be ...), this was a town that was ... quite boring.

No matter.  The five check into a bed and breakfast somewhere at the edge of town and are soon off to their first pub.  To Gary's disappointment, the pub, though with its old name-plate hanging outside, inside LOOKS NOTHING LIKE the pub of old.  Instead, it looks just like any pub that one could expect to see anywhere in London or any other big English city.  And instead of serving anything "local," the employee at the tap just tells Gary that "they serve beer."  As disappointed as Gary may have been, one of the four accompanying him shrugs without much surprise saying: "Just another example of the 'Starbuckization' of the world..."

No matter (again ;-).  The next pub's gonna be better, 'cept ... ;-) ... the next pub, except for the sign outside, INSIDE LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE THE FIRST ONE.  Depressed after their pint (they are at 2 now ...), they head to the third pub.

Now the third pub starts to look a little bit different (maybe 'cause they've had a few pints ..).  But here first Gary and then the rest start to notice THAT THE PEOPLE of their old home town, WHICH ALL OF THEM HAD LEFT YEARS AGO, seemed "odd."  How odd?  Well ... that's the rest of the film ;-).

The rest of the film requires a certain flexibility of the audience that a lot of people may not have.  This is because the film does make a leap into "science fiction land" (I'm not going to say more ;-).  But for those who can make the leap (or prove at least willing to try ...) THE FILM OFFERS ENORMOUS REWARDS.  This is because this "stupid little film" about a drunk and arguably "loser" trying to "relive his past" becomes surprisingly profound:  What exactly makes us human?  And is anyone really a "loser" so long as one remains free?  Yes free to make mistakes, free to pay for them, but still free.

Honestly, I am in awe of this film.  As silly / stupid as it seems at first, it really packs a punch ;-).

So a final question: Do the five make it to "The World's End"?  ... Go see the movie, I'm not gonna say :-)

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