Writer/director Michael Gondry is the mastermind behind some truly imaginative, original works. In one of my top ten favorite films, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, he makes the relationship between arty Clementine [Kate Winslet] and staid suit Joel [Jim Carrey] special and somewhat magical amidst its exploration of memories vs. cognitive recognition. Gondry co-wrote it with Charlie Kaufman [Adaptation] and it is near perfect. I actually stopped dating a guy because he did not “get” the film. While the dreamy Science of Sleep with Charlotte Gainsbourg and Gael Garcia Bernal is a tad confusing, the inventive visuals make it worth checking out. Gondry’s world is never completely fixed in reality and it’s always a place to which you can escape for a few hours.
When I just saw the preview for Be Kind Rewind, I admit I was a bit skeptical. I am so bothered by a video store. A video store? No one uses videos anymore. The title provides us with retro warm and smiley faced happiness and it turns out in Gondry’s hands that is exactly what we need.
In Be Kind Rewind, Gondry creates a safe, comfortable community. Throughout the film he combines his kaleidoscope of imagination with his unique eye for detail to make the film heartfelt without being sappy, sweet without being sugary and laugh-out-loud funny without being slapstick. Every frame, every scene contains multiple elements to absorb. The actors, the camera angles, the colors and sharp dialogue.
Mr. Fletcher [Danny Glover] runs an old fashioned video store in Passaic, New Jersey. Developers are vying for that location and to get him out of there. The building is condemned and he’s never going to get the money to buy out his share Mike [the ever sexy and endlessly cool Mos Def] works there and his kooky friend Jerry [Jack Black] spends way too much time there in between planning subversive missives against the local power plant. Mr. Fletcher goes out of town, leaving Mike in charge and all the tapes get erased. Mr. Fletcher’s friend and seemingly lost love Ms. Falewicz [played with relish by Mia Farrow] comes around to see just how well Mike is holding down the fort. She discovers tapes strewn everywhere in the store and is displeases. “Mr. Fletcher calls me every night at eight to check on me,” she tells Mike. Mike tells her to return the next day for a copy of Ghostbusters. After checking a big chain store and calling friends [“Well they said that about laserdiscs too.”], played with relish by Mia Farrow] scrappy Mike enlists Jerry and a cute local girl Alma, [cute and delightful Melonie Diaz] to re-create the films. First it’s Ghostbusters, then Driving Miss Daisy and Robocop. During a hilarious montage, they start to film Last Tango in Paris, Boogie Nights, and Gummo among many others. It turns out that in this culturally diverse neighborhood where thugs, hipsters and professional types all co-mingle, the customers prefer this mode of entertainment. The trio become celebrities in the town and everyone unites through their works.
Mos Def’s calm characterization of Mike balances Jack Black’s hyper-neurotic one. I maintain my Mos Def crush that I developed during his impressive turn in Something the Lord Made. Jack Black can be good [High Fidelity, Margot at the Wedding] at times but he’s too often the messy, zany guy. Although in last year’s acerbic yet inspired Margot at the Wedding he’s just the self-deprecating guy.
Be Kind Rewind is a love story to film. It’s also a commentary on the state of big business. We all know how hard in can be to find a copy of a particular, somewhat obscure film and wonder why there are 25 copies of something really banal on the shelves. It’s frustrating to see the long wait message next to a film in your netflix queue. There are few novels ideas as every film is being or has been remade or re-worked in some way. Be Kind Rewind is a gem amidst a lot of mediocrity.
STEELE RECOMMENDATION: SEE IT IMMEDIATELY!