By Adam Sturrock
The Interview (2014)
Director: Seth Rogan/ Evan Goldberg
Writer: Dan Sterling
Cast: Seth Rogan, James Franco, Lizzy Caplan, Randall Park, Diana Bang
Very few films have had such a will-they/won’t-they dilemma of if it will be distributed. Most news outlets had a say, the odd celebrity may have tweeted about it, even Barrack Obama slipped in a few quote worthy sentences about it. But after watching the film, one must think, “Really? Is this what everyone was fussing about?!”
It strikes me as odd that such a film as The Interview could be seen with such serious eyes. Potential representative of global free speech, accusations of terrorism to name but a few, but all under the name of a film that predominately fixates on all things rectal-related.
James Franco plays Dave Skylark, talk show extraordinaire and star whisperer, able to unlock the secrets of the many real life cameos from the likes of Eminem and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. And for every talk show host, there is the person who is the wind beneath their wings, the “Samwise Gamgee” to their “Frodo Baggins”; this being show producer, Aaron Rapoport/ Seth Rogan playing himself. It comes as no surprise however, that not many of Aaron’s former colleagues look at Skylark Tonight with much respect. There is a time and a place for light entertainment, for sure, but revealing the hidden sexuality of stars with somewhat dubious and sensationalised headlines does not really compare with say, CBS’s 60 Minutes. After given the chance to interview the elusive Kim-jong Un, an apparent fan of the show, the pair are intercepted by CIA Agent Lacey (Caplan), who asks that they “take him out” while they stop by – and not on a date. It’s another case of a pair of bumbling idiots and their reactions in various situations, only this time, they really can’t screw things up.
It can be quite obvious that the Interview is not a particularly nuanced film. The often childlike humour can be seen as highly offensive for some, but also hilarious for others; most likely to be around the teenage mark. It takes cringe worthy pot shots at race (“Me so solly” Rogan lisps over the phone at one point), sexual preferences and gender – the jokes often miss the mark by a margin at times. They make no attempt at pandering to a new audience and if anything, they shouldn’t do so anyway. When I heard that the duo were involved with the Interview, I didn’t expect much to be that different from their previous film, This Is The End – a decent yet innocently offensive flick. And here, they consistently followed through with expectations and unfortunately, left the result on my shoe.
They should be praised for the courage behind the film, at times. The film may be silly, but nothing and no one is left sacred. It would be very easy to erect a script that solely laughs at the isolated country but in this case, this doesn’t happen as expected. The US Government and the western media’s low brow craving is brutally bashed in just as much as anything North Korea-related. While the premise of the slightly flamboyant Dave Skylark (Franco) and his trusty yet mothering producer, Aaron Rapoport (Rogan), entering North Korea for an assassination attempt may come across as ludicrous, it at least sticks with the plot until the sticky end.
The cast chosen seem to have been selected for the sake of laughing at archetypes. Thankfully, actors Randall Park and Diana Bang, who play Kim Jong-un and Sook respectively, are given material that at least tries not to stoop to Team America levels of stereotyping and in Diana’s case, doesn’t push too hard into making her a doe-eyed love interest. In Franco’s case, it is another example that when prompted, he can really overact to flamboyant extremes. It kind of felt as if every line uttered seemed to be forced out to overemphasize the punchlines, but it mostly felt painful to watch him.
For all the hullabaloo attached, The Interview, no matter how off-taste the jokes can be at times, it fails to properly live up to the controversial shadow looming over it. Declawed, it perhaps takes just enough jabs at pop culture to get by but as a film, it seems to be coyly looking at the mess it has made with a gleeful grin, hoping for more. Sometimes, what we need is something to stir the pot for the sake of it. The Interview might be that movie and it may grate with some viewers, but for those that are keen fans of Seth Rogan’s previous work, it will suit you down to the ground. Unfortunately, as much as I have enjoyed the previous Seth Rogan-written films, it didn’t really make any attempt to try anything new: many jokes seemed to be recycled over and over again, and crucially, The Interview didn’t build upon what was left from their previous films together. Taking away from the fact that it was set largely in North Korea, the script doesn’t really try to stretch its legs, it just slouches across the couch and waits for the next paycheck to roll in. Shame.