I really didn’t think it was going to happen this late in the game. Here it is, basically the end of 2014, Horns having all but walked home with the trophy when Before I Disappear swoops in out of nowhere and steal the title. This is, hands down, The Worst Movie I’ve Seen All Year.
Before I Disappear was expanded into a feature film, with its seed in Shawn Christensen’s 19-minute Oscar winning short. Yet there is nothing here, by anyone’s standards, that warrants a 93 minute runtime. This movie, which Christensen wrote, directed, and starred in, facies itself so smart, so dark, and so very deep. It’s so in love with itself that I desperately wanted for this entire review to only be this single GIF:
But Dustin said no. (In reality, I didn’t ask. But I thought I should play at Respectable Film Critic a while longer.) So instead I’ll just post this dramatic reenactment of myself over the full 93 minutes, waiting for this movie to end.
We open on a guy, Richie, (Christensen) cleaning a bar bathroom gross enough to rival Trainspotting’s, and as he cleans the stalls, we’re treated to a darker sight with each new stall opened: a toilet filled with piss, one with vomit, one with blood, and one propping up a dead girl, and from that point on it is SHOCK CITY. Because when you don’t have a decent idea for a movie, throw in vomit toilets and spontaneous hallucinatory dance numbers. Sprinkle in some whiny voice over that reads like your worst high school poetry and a story we know so well (adult male f*ck-up + hyper-intelligent precocious child = hijinks), and you’ve got yourself a movie.
Richie is in the fallout of a breakup at a time when he really doesn’t seem to have anything else going for him. That plus finding the dead girl seems to be too much for him and he sinks into a grimy bathtub with a grimier razor to end it all. Just like in this year’s Skeleton Twins (though this film—the short anyway— came first, so we can’t accuse it of ripping anything off), he’s interrupted by an estranged sister (Emmy Rossum, really?) asking for help. For mysterious reasons, she needs him to babysit her 11 year old daughter and then for more mysterious reasons, Richie and the kid are forced to wander the streets in the middle of the night. But believe me, the mysteries themselves— all the movie’s mysteries— are so much less stupid than what comes out when the movie tries to eventually explain them. There’s nothing here but a loose story (I suppose you could call it a story) with huge, Swiss cheese holes all throughout (sorry WHY do they have to flee the apartment with its locks and doormen and no real threat outside or in?), some clearly (and poorly) improvised dialogue, and some cameos that really aren’t that impressive, but are DEFINITELY better caliber than this movie deserves. (Ron Perlman, Richard Schiff, and Fran Kranz, what are you even DOING here?) The characters are broad (she just wants to do homework, he just wants to smoke cigarettes until he dies instantly from spontaneous lung cancer), and the story is broader. The entire movie is About a Boy + Go, as interpreted by your college improv team.
This is normally the part of the review where I feel bad for shitting all over everything, and list the film’s redeeming qualities. Except here… there really aren’t any. I mean, I suppose the niece, played by Fatima Ptacek, is great once Christensen eases up about halfway into the movie and lets her be a person instead of an uptight caricature. And it is shot beautifully, although there’s nothing unique about that beauty— it looks more like a young film student’s class project in which he recreates the work of the directors who inspired him. I don’t know, maybe there were more good elements but I missed them, having passed out after being beaten over the head so viciously with movie’s unrelenting DEEP SYMBOLISM. If you HAVE to see this movie (and you don’t, just don’t), entertain yourself with the Before I Disappear Drinking Game: Drink every time there is SUPER DEEP SYMBOLISM (red phones, Emily Dickinson poems and the like), and then drink again every time that symbolism turns out to mean exactly nothing.
Congratulations, Before I Disappear, you made me hit my against my own fist more than any other movie this year. I hope you’re proud of yourself.