Struggled Reagans (2014)

struggled-reagans-main-review

By: Bill Arceneaux (Three Beers) –
How many beers do you recommend for this movie?
1 Beer! A Toast! Great Movie!2 Beers! Good Movie!3 Beers! Okay Movie!4 Beers! Mediocre Movie!5 Beers! Awful Movie!6-Pack! Bad movie! Do not be Sober!

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When I think of a filmmaker that can perfectly execute a dreamlike atmosphere, I think of David Lynch. Probably the most obvious example from his work would be Eraserhead. It’s a film of frightening beings, manifested from fear and anxiety. It’s a film of visual metaphors, representing the good and bad of a character. It’s a film of subtext, where we understand that more is being told to us than just in the dialogue. It may seem difficult to decipher, but actually feels familiar and personal.

Now, I used “dreamlike” to describe Lynch’s films. His stories often appear like a dream – especially in the non-linear construction he applies. However, there is a throughline, a strong context, that holds it all together (even in Lost Highway). They may be weird movies, but they aren’t hard to grasp or engage with.

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You have a sick mind, my friend.

I recently read a tweet that quoted something that filmmaker Luis Bunuel said to Salvador Dali, with regards to their collaborative film Un Chien Andalou – “Refuse any image that could have a rational meaning or any memory or culture.” Keep this in mind for the rest of this review.

A Toast

Struggled Reagans isn’t “like” a dream; it is one. Imagine yourself sleeping with a TV on. Something is said on a commercial, you hear it, and that influences the events of whatever you’re dreaming of. Somehow, it makes sense when you’re in the thick of it. Imagine too how dreams reveal hidden thoughts, fantasies and concerns that you otherwise might not deal with when awake. This is a movie with that kind of flow, and that kind of logic. In this way, the film is brilliant.

Let me attempt to describe what happens. Six individuals with very specific traumas (one was hurt by a cucumber during sex, another is obsessed with the BTK Killer) are brought together by a talking crystal to find and secure a tumor in the collective unconscious. To do this, they become a Power Rangers like group called the Struggled Reagans. They spend the running time speaking in metaphysical exposition and having sexual encounters with anyone and anything. Oh, and they are sometimes antagonized by a blue deity.

If I were to play psychoanalyst for a moment, I would say that this movie is actually a statement on the current generation of young adults. I’m probably reaching a bit, but I’m guessing that “Struggled Reagans” means the universal trials and tribulations of youth born under President Reagan. It’s a criticism of now, through the manner of a collective dream / nightmare. All of our problems come to the surface, and are dealt with via nostalgic TV show fantasy. This is the information age, amped up by reading online dictionaries and watching youtube videos. Has the increased intelligence made us ill? Judging from the movie, it’s all, at least, made the writer / director ill. And we are now watching his cultural review on a screen made of his own vomit. Again – brilliant.

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Feel like throwing up?

Beer Two

Trying to make sense of it all aside, it’s frustrating and irritating. Sure, it nailed a kind of storytelling that few have accomplished, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to sit through. The non-stop barrage of rapid fire and violently vivid / sometimes esoteric dialogue gets overwhelming a few minutes in. On top of this, I can’t say that anything actually happens in the plot. A guy gets pegged with a broom handle, there’s a talking clock at one point and then a double cross that ultimately means nothing. It’s subtext with little to no surface. This might be stylistically intended, but it doesn’t lessen the eye-numbing tedium.

Beer Three (shotgunned)

It’s possible that my tolerance is higher than that of others when it comes to this kind of cinema. This is NOT a movie for the masses, and if I were to show this to a Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit crowd, they would throw a fit, walk out and demand a refund. I normally don’t care about that, but I feel a sign of caution is necessary here.

Verdict

3beers

A revelation in concept and thought, a pain in just about everything else. Most other critics would give this a full six pack, which could lead to quite the debate on film theory. Struggled Reagans gave me reason to reflect on David Lynch and the future of surreal filmmaking, and for that, it gets a pass.

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Drinking Game

Take a Drink: if you have the perfect Struggled Reagan name for yourself.

Take a Drink: for every chapter of the book you read during the run time. Gotta be productive somehow.

Do a Shot: when you find an interpretation of the movie that inspires you to make a youtube video. You’ll be the envy of every film geek online. Well, most of them.

About Bill Arceneaux

Independent film critic from New Orleans and member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA).

One comment

  1. Saw this at SFindieFest and enjoyed it.
    Film felt really fresh, the music was dope it was actually very funny.

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