Stay Cool (2011) Dir. Michael Polish
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Blurb: The film centers on a successful author who is forced to confront an unrequited high school crush when he returns home to deliver a commencement address to graduating seniors. Shasta O'Neil, a sexy high school senior flirts with the visiting author and invites him to the prom.
Thoughts: I really wish this movie didn't exist. The Polish Brothers have been responsible for some truly interesting and unique independent cinema over the years; a movie about conjoined twins, Billy Bob Thornton as a farmer who builds a spaceship in his barn, a comedy about manure salesmen and Northfork a wonderful movie that defies accurate description but this straightforward enough premise of a writer giving a commencement speech at his old high school and all the inevitable generic clichéd events that this usually throws up is their strangest film film yet. But not in a good way.
After building a relationship with filmmakers over this amount of time you have a tendency to go in to every picture they release with a set of expectations. In this case I expected oddball humour, an intelligent response to genre conventions and interesting visual composition and always good performances. I can't say my expectations were met, infact they were pretty much universally destroyed.
What is with Americans and their obsession with high school? It feels like their are hundreds of teen movies released every year on the same themes, and almost running level in recent years are the films with adults, fully grown human beings with real lives, returning to high school, not necessarily even their own. Sure you occasionally get something wonderful like Grosse Point Blank or Young Adult but by and large they are shit and very rarely are they as humorous as they think they are.
Mark and Michael Polish make some nice obscure and subtle references to the plethora of genre films gone before and simultaneously couldn't restrain themselves enough to avoid a Say Anything reference. Their attempts at oddball humour largely fall flat, with a truly offensive hobbit as THE homosexual stereotype and Chevy Chase the main offenders. Nepotism aside I think Mark Polish is a good choice for this type of protagonist, he has the right every man quality that you very rarely find in cinema and his performance (which some have referred to as flat) had a great blend of exhaustion, apathy, exasperation and insecurity, he should have just written himself a better script and we might all have heard about it.
You can't expect something as great as Northfork every time but you can remain hopeful, everyone has a bad movie in them and hopefully this is theirs.
Join in the discussion in the comments below, at Letterboxd or #staycool @bbbgtoby.