By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
Sylvio is about a gorilla who works a dead-end job in debt collection and who’s one pleasure in live appears to be his videotaped one-man puppet show, The Quiet Times with Herbert Herpels. When he stumbles onto a surprisingly popular Public Access TV show out collecting a debt, his newfound and very relative stardom open new doors for him.
This is Sylvio.
You’ll know in the first five minutes whether Sylvio is for you. Fortunately, Sylvio is strangely engrossing from the start, from its minimalist pastel and kitsch-obsessed set, graphics, and art design to its weirdly protracted scene by scene rhythms. It’s just quite unlike anything you’ve seen before, perhaps sharing more in common with Adult Swim late night mock-infomercials than anything we’ve seen at feature length before.
As you get drawn into the peculiarities of Sylvio’s world, especially as he befriends the crew of a local Public Access TV show and begins to ascend to (a very modest) stardom in a segment in which he smashes various objects in amusingly inventive ways, the fact that this is a man in a gorilla suit and cheap sunglasses falls away. The way Sylvio Bernardi (credited as himself, because of course) brings a soulful complexion to this character invests you in his travails, and even lends a bit of weight to the simple plight of an artist story that makes up its plot.
You’ll know in the first five minutes whether Sylvio is for you. Unfortunately, Sylvio is extremely twee and full of the kinds of millennial preciousness that society loves to hate for being so self-consciously unconscious, the kind where carefully curated 80s-idolizing thrift store clothes, posters, and household decor is the apex of creative expression. I dig that shit, but you may well hate it.
Let this be your Rorschach test.
There’s something here about how the entertainment industry twists you, makes you into something you’re not in the name of providing the same thrills that got you famous in the first place. Also, Peace > Violence. It’s pretty simple stuff, and the odd package doesn’t make it quite as profound as the winsome indie guitar noodling would like you to believe.
Sylvio is an uncategorizable oddity, a hipster confection if there every was one, but one that makes you root for a man in a gorilla mask regardless.
Last Call: In many ways, the most surprising element of the film is the immediate pre-credits scrawl.
Sylvio (2017) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: whenever Sylvio goes to work or work comes to Sylvio
Take a Drink: for every episode of The Quiet Times with Herbert Herpels
Take a Drink: for every episode of The Afternoon Show with Al Reynolds
Take a Drink: whenever Sylvio breaks something
Take a Drink: when, obviously, they go to a thrift store
Do a Shot: for banana-themed electronics