By: Henry J. Fromage (Six Pack) –
I quite like David Sedaris. Every book I’ve ever read of his I’ve devoured in a sitting or two. His mix of wit and humane observation make him a born storyteller and comic voice.
It probably helps that he shares these genes.
C.O.G. is the first film adaptation of his work, which isn’t too surprising considering his métier is more the short story. It follows his young self as he travels to Oregon after college to pick apples and discover how the other half lives.
Oregon sure is a beautiful place. For a few minutes there, picking apples and eating dank Mexican food with your seasonal coworkers looked pretty cool. There are a few good laughs spaced throughout, and Jonathan Groff shows plenty of promise for future dramatic roles. The rest of the cast also features plenty of welcome, familiar faces.
Like Patty the Daytime Hooker!
As usual, there’s an amount of wittiness slippage when transferring from page to screen. In this case, I’d say about 80%.
The beginning of the film, in which David is riding a cross-country bus enduring a succession of non-WASP middle Americans with exaggerated personalities annoying him in mildly amusing ways, pretty much sets the tone for the entire film. C.O.G. is a bizarre mix of pretensions of arthouse realism and a cast of characters entirely populated by overblown stereotypes which the filmmakers unsuccessfully try to mask in a pleasant montage or two. Of course the Mexicans steal, the rural gay man is a sexual predator, and the proselytizing Christian is a hate-riddled sonofabitch who’s so homophobic that he once refused a dying man a hug. Of course.
The whole of Christendom, apparently.
Even David himself is a stereotype- an upper middle class white boy wanting to Kerouac it up by slumming with the working class for awhile. I guess it’s admirable in a way that he doesn’t learn any lessons or get any comeuppance for his racism, classism, and massive sense of entitlement, just because most films would have him find out that it wasn’t the Mexicans who jacked his cash, or that good Christians, umm… exist? It certainly bucks convention, I guess.
So, what’s that leave us with? What’s his journey? What’s he learn? That all his preconceptions were true? That bad people are everywhere, but that retreating behind your white picket fence and shoving your silver spoon, pacifier-like, back in your mouth is the safest option? That liberal Easterners really are better than everyone else?
I know the real Sedaris is more complex, with a lot more to say than this, but that makes the film that much worse. At best it’s a mediocre, soulless collection of amusing anecdotes, and at worst its artificial veneer of insight is revoltingly offensive after just a few seconds of consideration.
This is a shrill, unsubtle, hateful film. Hopefully Sedaris is a bit more choosy the next time he sells the film option to one of his stories.
Take a Drink: for clapping… so much clapping
Take a Drink: for every terrible joke
Take a Drink: for blasphemy
Take a Drink: whenever David’s an entitled ass
Drink All of the Alcohol, Ever: every time he actually learns a lesson
Do a Shot: for spiritual metaphors