Saturday, August 29, 2009
World's Greatest Dad
A year or so ago I went to this sample sale. Our friends
run this ceramics business and and to help out the elementary school, they
donated their entire inventory of samples to the school to be sold.
This husband and wife team had built a huge business out of selling coffee cups and dishes with cleaver sayings on them. And although I like there products, I walked around the school cafeteria at least a couple of dozen times looking over the hundreds of samples and still could not find anything there that day that struck my fancy.
And then I saw "IT." I stumbled upon this giant coffee mug in teal and white with big letters that said "You are a Wonderful Father ...and an Excellent Husband!"
Well I snapped that sucker up before anyone else could get their hands on it and ran around showing off to all of our school friends the cleaver and poignant gift that I had just bought for myself. I found this to be incredibly funny even though I think that no body else did.
Tonight I saw a movie that I would recommend to anyone who likes my jokes.
The movie stars Robin Williams as Lance Clayton, a single-father-high school English-teacher-failed-novelist whose career would be on the down hill slide had he ever had any success in the first place. His son Kyle (Played by Daryl Sabara) is an incredible jerk who wants to do nothing other than hang out in his room and beat off looking at the most grossest pron he can find. He seems to enjoy sex involving shit and piss although the closest he has ever come to a date is masturbating in front of his computer, which he does while strangling himself to heighten the experience. Things go bad and he ends up killing himself. You can not even feel sorry for the kid because he is such an blight on everyone from his father to his friends from school.
But Lance can't let his loser son leave the earth in such a loser fashion, so he channels his writing skills and authors a suicide note that seems to capture the pain and isolation that Lance feels from the steady stream of rejection letters that he gets for his failed novels, and from having to live with a thankless and awful son who never had any empathy for anyone.
The suicide note gets published in the school newspaper and captures the imagination and sadness of all of the students who rightfully had despised Kyle for being the jerk that he was. But in the prism of the tragedy and the touching note, the students all rally around the lonely English teacher. Lance has been in an on again off again relationship with the school's sexy art teacher (Alexi Gilmore) and the fallout of the tragedy has brought her closer to him. To seal the deal Lance provides her with a post mortem diary that his son supposedly kept. This too is written to capture the hardship of going it alone, and, due to an overly zealous grief counselor, the diary is reproduced and distributed to all of the students whom have begun to build a shrine to Kyle, their fallen hero.
Lance winds up on an Opera style show and is offered a chance to finally publish his books. But this movie, which was written and directed by comedian Bobcat Goldthwait, surprises by disrupting the obvious Hollywood endings. And only at the end of the movie do we get to see Robin Williams look comfortable in his skin, as Lance finally figures out that maybe the life of a lonely loser that was his up until now was his because he actually kind of liked it. It wasn't nearly as confusing and disingenuous as the life that came with all of of that attention.
I am reminded of understated and funny abortion movie Citizen Ruth (1996), that starred Laura Dern. In that movie as in this none, flawed figures who are not really capable of handling the huge responsibility are thrown into the center of an American shitstorm over issues that are so divisive that they can't help but look comical even without the dull charaters there to set the comedy in motion. Let's face it, Americans on the whole have never been very good at dealing with the really tough issues. Particularly when they are to be tackled by a large group. World's Greatest Dad is a very funny movie about very uncomfortable things. Not necessarily the suicide, but how we all seem to want something to make us feel better, no matter how trite and stupid it is.
And by the way, you should see how happy I look in mornings these days, now that I have my half full "Wonderful Father" coffee mug to drink from.