November 1, 2007

Sex, murder, and cerebral palsy in Glover’s latest

Crispin Glover’s work is very hard to explain. It is all at once completely insane, strangely touching, and positively uncomfortable to watch. To put it as simply as possible, It Is Fine. Everything Is Fine! tells the story of a man afflicted with cerebral palsy, a hair fetish, and homicidal tendencies. He somehow seduces women into having sex with him, and then he strangles them. At one point in the movie, the main character, Paul, is rejected by a woman who refuses to marry him because of his disability. The next day, he strangles her and then has sex with her daughter, whom he also strangles. If you’re starting to formulate the mental image of a man with slightly more mobility than Stephen Hawking graphically making love to and then strangling women, you’re only just scratching the surface of the absurdity of Crispin Glover and It Is Fine. Everything Is Fine!

In order to understand the movie, it’s important to understand that this isn’t just some writer’s demented fantasy of sex, murder, and physical handicaps. The screenplay was written by Steven C. Stewart, who played the role of Paul and who was also actually afflicted with cerebral palsy. Thus the script plays out with a noticeable mix of fantasy and naiveté that one would expect from such a perspective.

But outside of the context of this film’s very unique screenwriter and star, the movie itself is so unique that it’s nearly impossible to judge in terms of traditional cinema standards. There are so few movies like It’s Fine. Everything Is Fine! that the movie is almost worth watching just because you’ll probably never again see anything like it. At times, it seems like a distasteful, sex-drenched, stock thriller, but it is so daring and unabashed about what it is willing to show and say on-screen that its originality shines through.

More than anything else, it’s difficult to watch this movie without finding yourself hopelessly torn between hysterical laughter and clawing your way through the back of your seat because it’s so uncomfortable to watch. Sure, it has a certain innocence and honesty in what it’s trying to say, but the overwhelming weirdness of It Is Fine. Everything Is Fine! often just overpowers everything else. Still, it’s a notable achievement that, in this day and age, it’s still possible for a film to be daring about what it puts on-screen without succumbing to outright absurdity and pretension.

To be sure, Crispin Glover wouldn’t have it any other way. Best remembered for his role as George McFly in Back to the Future, Glover now spends his time alternating between larger, more lucrative projects (like his recent part in the Charlie’s Angels movies) in order to support smaller projects like It Is Fine. Everything Is Fine! and its prequel What Is It? And he doesn’t just write, direct, and produce. Glover also authors delightfully nonsensical books that he often presents snippets of in slideshows before movies.

His work does somewhat smack of community college film major pretension, but its sharp (and often completely insane) wit and unshakably haunting tone place it far above anything along those lines. His movies are made to disturb the audience in a way that nothing coming out of a large studio would ever be allowed to do. He is about absurdity in all its best incarnations: as a powerful instrument for breaking down barriers; and as a way to force the audience into a world that it can’t possibly hope to understand, making it step outside of whatever preconceived notions it may have. And, falling perfectly into this vein, there has never been a movie that will challenge what you think you know about movies more than It Is Fine. Everything Is Fine! Its release dates are a bit sketchy thanks to the highly independent nature of the film, but the regular schedules of performances appear on If you happen to be in town at the same time as Crispin Glover, you should not hesitate to go see whatever he has to say. I guarantee that, at the very least, it will be completely unlike anything else that you have ever seen.