Happy birthday and go fuck yourself!
I had a question sent to me via email recently that asked me where I kept hearing about the films and review and they come from a mixture of different sources. Some are films that I have seen in the past, others are films where I stumble across the trailers randomly on Youtube and there are others which I gain from a roulette system that I found online.
The system is basically a button that you press and it gives me a random film to watch, and I dedicate myself to watching whatever film comes up, regardless of how crap it looks, and this is why I end up reviewing some diabolically bad films. Sometimes it works but in the majority, it fails miserably. So after a while I ended up going to the roulette system and what came up was a film that I knew I wasn’t going to enjoy before it started.
“It Was You Charlie” didn’t look like a film I wouldn’t normally watch, I’m not going to lie, nothing about this film got me excited whatsoever. It didn’t look particularly interesting, it didn’t seem to have a particularly interesting plot, the main character seemed devoid of being noteworthy, I was thinking of skipping it entirely, but I had nothing better to do on my Monday evening, which tells you it’s own story.
On his 40th birthday, Abner (Cohen) is left heartbroken when Madeleine (Hopkins) confesses that she loves his brother, Tom (Abrams). Two years later and Abner has thrown away his career as a professor in sculpture and works as a receptionist at a hotel. Struggling in life, Abner regularly makes half-hearted suicide attempts. He soon realises that he is being followed for reasons that he can’t figure out.
Tom gets in contact and tries to re-establish the formerly positive relationship, but Abner wants nothing of it as he is still exceedingly jealous and becomes exceptionally angry when he discovers that they had a child. Meanwhile, he meets Zoe (Fleury), a free spirited taxi-driver that tries to get Abner to open up to the world again, but he is a reluctant subject and is constantly shunning her advances.
As bad as I was expecting?
Yes. I’m going to start with the suicide attempts. It Seems almost like he’s trying to commit suicide as a cry for attention rather than a genuine attempt. In the first scene he tries to jump out of his window but gets stuck. After that he gives up. If he was adamant that he wanted to commit suicide then he wouldn’t let that stop him, he would simply force his way through. It almost seems bizarre in a way that he tries to jump out of a window that is almost as tall off of the ground as he is. There is virtually no chance of his attempt to jump through his window will actually work the first time around, and it within seconds of the film beginning it has made you feel really unsympathetic towards the character.
The film does try to re-establish him as a sympathetic character but it fails miserably and most of the opening fifteen minutes are shown with him rearranging his apartment and food, going to work, obsessing over a young couple and breaking into what I assume is their apartment. They move into his past and his failed love interest in Madeleine and how it tore him apart, but again, I failed to feel sympathy for the character throughout the film’s near 80 minute run time.
You are meant to believe that he is lonely, but then it shows you exactly why he is lonely. He is a social outcast, spends most of his spare time inside, often playing with a recreation of a car-crash he had, treats his family poorly and the women who do show him any affection or kindness are quickly shunned. If the guy is selectively lonely, how am I supposed to feel sorry for him? Yes, I understand that he loved Madeleine and was disappointed that she didn’t choose him, but other than that there is no reason to feel any positive emotion towards this character.
However, the character is played relatively well by Cohen. He plays the childish 40something amazingly well. You genuinely believe that he is unstable because of how well Cohen plays him. I think part of the success comes in that Cohen looks, and I don’t mean this in a disrespectful way, a bit like Danny Devito looked in Batman Returns. He has that creepy and unusual look to him, and that works well. As he becomes increasingly paranoid, Cohen captures that level of insecurity exceptionally.
Cohen isn’t alone in acting well in the film, with all of the cast members doing a very good job and the acting holds what little plot there is in the film together. One scene I exceptionally loved is when one of Abner’s colleagues invites him into his apartment and they go through a rather one sided conversation about the afterlife and an earlier conversation in which Abner largely ignored him. The scene takes an exceptionally tense turn and the music works fantastically as he questions Abner why he bought a gun before then attempting to kill himself with the gun, only for it to turn out to be unloaded. Abner’s fear throughout is believable and honest. The scene is easily the most emotionally engaging few minutes in an otherwise completely flat and lifeless 80 minute venture.
Location wise, the surroundings match the tone of the film in many ways, with a generally dull and lifeless environment. Large, open expanses are often used with a less than active colour chart and this matches the tone of the film reasonably well. The bleak nature and tone of the movie is well captured in this and it is one of the few things that works exceptionally well.
Whilst the film has many flaws, the worst is that it feels directionless. At the time of writing this sentence I am about 45 minutes into the film, and other than that he is getting followed and has started a friendship with a taxi driver. there’s not a lot really happening. I’m half way through the film and it hasn’t moved beyond the set-up stage for it just feels poorly paced. The problem is that random characters are being introduced and nothing is being done with them. I’m more than half way into this film and for the most part, I couldn’t really tell you anything that is going on because the film hasn’t drawn me in.
The film ends with a bit of a twist. I’m not going to go into it but much like twists like The Sixth Sense, the signs are obvious when you think about it, and again, although I won’t go into it, I was able to pretty much call the the twist before it even happened because it was that obvious. The good twists are the ones that you can’t see coming.
For lack of better words the film seems pointless and there was a quote I saw the other day that I think sums it up quite well, and that is “being indie for the sake of being indie”. Great indie films tell a message of some variety without using the big budget (and more often than not, star power) of major films, but this isn’t telling a message of any variety and is just a very slow, uninteresting, largely bland story about an unlikeable man who claims he is lonely, but shuns every single opportunity to end that.
Abner doesn’t have any redeeming features and this makes him impossible to route for, and a film that doesn’t have a single character that you route for is destined for failure. Cohen is brilliant as Abner but sometimes you could be the best actor in the world (I’m not saying that Cohen is) and yet it’s worthless if you don’t have the film to back it up.
With an actual plot this might have actually succeeded, but it doesn’t and that is the reason why pretty much all reviewers on the internet that have seen this has deemed it as mediocre, at best.