Upon coming home from watching Scott Pilgrim Vs The World my housemate summed up the film thus: “Visually the film is stunning. 10 out of 10 for the look. 5 star quality, fight choreography. The problem is… Scott Pilgrim is a film for wankers.”
That’s a harsh assessment of a film that’s had wall-to-wall positive reviews, including from NME. But there’s an element of truth to it.
I believe Scott Pilgrim doesn’t work. Yes, it’s funny. Yes the acting is more than acceptable and the direction is, at times, wondrous. But as a film something is very wrong in the world of Scott Pilgrim.
Many of ‘the haters’ (to use the parlance of our times) will blame Michael Cera. I don’t. I like the guy. I liked him in Arrested Development, Juno, and I’ve even got a soft spot for Nick And Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Does he play the same character over and over again?
Yes, is the simple answer – but so did Humphrey Bogart and I don’t see anyone setting up www.IH8Bogie.org.
All the same, a Cera backlash is overdue. Witness the opening scene where he brags about his 17-year-old Chinese girlfriend. You’re completely with his ex when she says: “If you’re life had a face I’d punch it”.
For over 3/4 of the film, Scott is an unsympathetic asshole. Perhaps now, at the ripe old age of 22, Cera’s success has made him dislikeable, unsympathetic. Or maybe its the poorly-written character.
The cliché of “sympathetic heroes overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles” (the definition of pretty much every mainstream movie ever made) does need to be subverted to keep film fresh, but the fact that Scott, as a character, is so devoid of any sympathy makes Scott, as a film, a genuine struggle.
Tim (Spaced) and Shaun (…Of The Dead) were both, like Scott, slightly whiny, self obsessed men-children, but the difference was they were injected with a modicum of sympathy.
To compare Scott Pilgrim Vs The World to Spaced, Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz would seem a little unfair. It’s a bigger, all together more American affair. And so it should be, with an estimated budget of $60,000,000.
But the audience is still the same. That you couldn’t find a poor line amongst the former Wright stuff may have been down to Simon Pegg’s (and in the beginning, Jessica Stevenson’s) ability to rip out lines that don’t work. There’s no such ruthless script-editing in Scott Pilgrim.
So does the film attack or worship the hipsters: the fickle, the fashion-chasers, the absolute bell-ends like the guy who attended the screening I went to last night in a green vest top and a pork pie hat, even though it was raining outside?
The ‘end of level’ last evil ex is exactly the kind of ‘hipster wanker’ Scott Pilgrim is supposed to be against. It’s the geek vs the cool. It’s the loser vs. the big-shot. It’s us vs. them. Isn’t it?
Sadly, no. If you worship at the feet of Scott you’re more likely one of them, than one of us. With such fuzzy lines and poor character development, Scott Pilgrim, wonderful visuals aside, is exactly the kind of film people will jump on for it’s coolness, not it’s heart.
And it’s gotta be about the heart.
Owen Nicholls edits www.thisfilmison.com