Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Hitting the Brick

by Jason Pyles

He may look like that sloppy band nerd who, like me, still rode the bus to school in 11th grade, but Brendan Frye is one scrappy dude — a kid who’s all heart. I love how he casually folds up his glasses, places them in their hard, protective case, and proceeds to throw down — with anybody who provokes him. At one point, “The Pin” even suggests that Brendan may be a little nuts, and in fact, he just might be. There are certain people out there whose intensity and determination are nothing less than frightening.

Brendan is one such character, a good character. And since “Brick” is often considered a modern film noir, I can concede that Brendan follows suit with many film noir protagonists: His stamina and rugged ability to take a beating during his pursuit fits the description. Like other noir personalities, his endurance is remarkable.

Both of my viewings of “Brick” have come at the recommendation of Mr. Andy Howell. He’s fond of this film, as I’m sure you’ll read in his post. I appreciated and enjoyed this film more this second time around, but my initial reservation still stands: These kids’ lingo is inaccessible to me; the movie has too much slang for its own good. I suspect that the writer and director, Rian Johnson, was going for authenticity, but it’s so extreme, Johnson crosses over authenticity right into artificiality. It’s the difference between eating marshmallows and eating Marshmallow Peeps.

But during this second viewing, something else gnawed at me even more: These kids take themselves way too seriously. This may sound like a condescending judgment statement, but allow me to explain. Yes, it’s true that teenagers generally have heightened emotions and overly dramatic reactions to their day-to-day issues (not that drug wars, teen pregnancy and murder are trivial problems). But in “Brick” the teens are unbelievably serious all the time. These kids are like zombies because they hardly ever lose their sober, gloomy tone. Nearly every minute of their lives is deadly serious. Contrast the down-time versus the intense moments in Jacob Aaron Estes’ “Mean Creek” (2004) or “Stand By Me” (1986).

The most brilliant aspect of “Brick” occurs at “The Pin’s” house. Most of the film gives us an eerily “adultless” world. But at the lofty crime boss’s house, we see Brendan, The Pin and Tugger politely responding to The Pin’s sweet mother’s hospitality. Hilarious — but more importantly, these brief moments illustrate how the teens in this movie are in their own little world that, again, they take far more seriously than the few surrounding grown-ups do.

P.S. Oh, and what’s with all the fixating about where they eat their lunches?

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