Friday, April 21, 2006

Movie: Brick

Just last Tuesday, Seth turned me on to an indie flick called Brick that apparently did quite well at this year's Sundance. Then, in a strange coincodence, just last Friday Seth and Liz and I all went to see Brick.

Brick is a film noir that's set in a high school. Seth used the term "postmodern film noir," and I think it's a pretty fair description, but rather than label, let me explain.

The characters are all high school kids. The plot and dialogue are straight out of Faulkner's Sanctuary or, even better, The Big Sleep with Bogey and Bacall. Although there are some funny moments, mostly because of the absurdity of high school kids using film noir dialogue, the film itself is played straight about 99% of the time.

It works. Here's why.

Brick is as much an homage to the genre as it is a new addition to it. Rather than simply make a halfhearted attempt to create new film noir, the writers borrowed liberally from some of the best sources. The knew their material, they knew what they were going after, and it's as respectful a tribute to an arguably dying genre as you can get.

Second, the setting and subject matter. The trailer makes it seem more comedic than it actually is, and it becomes very clear from the opening shot of the film that we're not in store for a spoof or send-up. How then do you justify setting it in a high school, and then occasionally reminding the audience that the characters are just kids (from the attentive mother to the "Lord of the Rings" references.) The adult response is to dismiss the setting either as "kids don't really act this way," but I think that may be exactly why the movie works so well. In high school, most people think high school is the only part of life. Aside from a few college-bound folk, the most important things are who's dating who, who said what about who, and so forth. Brick's setting makes perfect sense in that context.

You also might be able to argue a more political point, that the film serves as a metaphor for the way children are growing up faster - indeed, murdering each other, dealing drugs to each other, having irresponsible sex with each other, and so forth. If you get that out of the film, great. But it's certainly not the point of the movie.

So there you go. Noir fans, check out Brick. It's a hell of a ride, and will probably pleasantly surprise you, as it did me.

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