You know how you see a movie trailer, and think, wow, that is going to be awesome, only to find out the real movie is far from what you thought from the trailer–not as good? That is how I felt watching SCENES FROM THE SUBURBS, the short film by Spike Jonze based on an Arcade Fire album and an extension of the popular music video that came out last year. Boy, was I disappointed.
The film tells the story of a group of friends living in suburban Houston, focusing on Kyle and his best friend Winter. Bizarrely, every town in America is fighting every other town on the flimsiest of pretexts, and have their own professional armies that set up police states within their borders. When Winter’s brother “gets out,” presumably coming home from a war, Winter becomes increasingly recluse, to the point of rejecting his girlfriend and beating up Kyle for no apparent reason. (He seems to turn into his brother under similar pressures.) At this point the narrative breaks down and makes even less sense than the music video, if that’s possible. It is as if the entire short film were simply a way for the filmmakers to recreate their childhoods, but throw in some spooky RED DAWN stuff to create a titillating atmosphere of conflict so we don’t get bored.
The acting and direction are great. The kids were really well cast and produced an entirely convincing portrait of growing up in the suburbs. But I watched the story with a growing sense of impatience at the nonsensical plot development and unsatisfying ending in which nothing is resolved. As earthy and real as the central story of the kids was, the more false and artificial the police state elements of the film turned out to be, and the weirder Winter’s unexplained abrupt right turn into insanity. They should have just stuck with the story of the kids, and told it well, and left out the police state stuff, or they should have taken the police state concept seriously enough to have it be realistic, show the kids actually talking about it, and have the conflict between them stem more directly from it.
I loved the music video and waited a long time for this with a lot of excitement, but I was sadly disappointed.