Friday, September 25, 2015

It's Such a Beautiful Day (2012) ****1/2

Y'all really need to give this one a chance. Animated with primitive, yet subtly expressive stick figures, “It's Such a Beautiful Day” is a profound, tragicomic commentary on the absurdity of life. The film tells the story of Bill, who is sick and lonely. Slowly, the story reveals aspects of Bill's illness, which appears to be some kind of brain tumor. We also see his childhood and some stories from his family history, which appears to be full of mental illness and train accidents. As Bill increasingly endures memory loss and bouts of delirium, we wonder if this is his family history catching up to him or just symptoms of his tumor. Either way, it is clear that Bill's days are numbered.

It sounds like it could be a downer, but “It's Such a Beautiful Day” is so chock-full of absurd humor that you will laugh more than cry. The movie starts with a hilarious scene where Bill recognizes someone walking down the street, but as they approach on the sidewalk, neither is certain whether they will just nod, give a verbal greeting, or actually stop to talk. The awkward scene is a spot-on satire of how mixed-up humans are in even our simplest interactions. In a Seinfeldian scene, Bill only picks produce from the back side of the bin, because the produce at the front is right at the crotch level of all the other shoppers.

This film started out life as a collection of three shorts, which creator Don Hertzfeldt has cobbled into an hour-long feature. The chapter titles that still separate the three components feel a bit arbitrary, and the feature perhaps struggles a bit to maintain its narrative arc while fitting these three pieces together, but it mostly works. I absolutely loved this film, but it's not for everyone. The primitive animation style is going to feel weird for many viewers. It sometimes looks like one of those short-film art installations you see in museums. The humor is also very dry and intellectual. Nonetheless, this little movie stands as a powerful piece of existentialist contemplation full of hilarious social satire.

4.5 stars out of 5

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