Wednesday, 30 July 2014

As I Lay Dying

Out now on DVD and Blu-Ray is an absolute depress-fest of a film, a book adaptation by James Franco, which he made basically because of a bet. As I Lay Dying is about a group of people who watch their mother die and then don’t really give a shit, and seeing as she asked to be buried in a very specific place, spend the next two hours doing awful things to themselves to move, what essentially is some meat, to a hole in the ground somewhere really far away. Adapted by, directed by and starring James Franco this film is amazing. Amazingly shit. Hur hur hur.


The film starts off with the joyous image of watching an old woman die which is always uplifting but it wasn’t long before I didn’t care anymore. Due to the delivery of the dialogue, the camera work, the weird editing decisions and the mismatched versions of hillbilly accents between the cast members, I was suffocating her and everyone else in the film under a pillow in my mind within minutes. Mind Pillows aside, the cast all sound like they are on Saturday Night live trying to do ‘that kind of accent’.


The central focus of the film, and the book, was that the homemade coffin that contained the meat that used to be the matriarch is being dragged to a place she wanted to be buried, as mentioned in her logistical nightmare of a dying wish. Out of honour or whatever, everyone decides to get mixed up in abortions, arson, leg breaks, badly made casts, infections and crying just to put her in the ground. Now I don’t mean to sound insensitive, but absolutely nothing would happen to the mother’s mood if James Franco crept in to the coffin at night, with a drill, pierced a few holes into the corpse and put his willy in them over and over again for a laugh. Which I think may have been a more reasonable reaction to a dying woman asking you to drag her skeleton and off cuts across America.

James Franco decided to make this film because someone said to him once “Here you know what, that book As I Lay Dying by Faulkner, no one could make that into a film, it would be impossible. I think if anyone made that book into a film, even if they used weird split screen effects, it would be a dreary, depressing pile of shit, that completely abandoned the gothic southern feel of the novel.”  He responded by saying “Nah mate, I’d nail that shit no bother.”


I didn’t care about any of the characters and it all feels like a final piece of coursework from someone who has just got the recent version of iMovie. (Where you can actually do split screen work with the touch of a button I found out the other day.) I sort of respect Franco for giving it a go, and he was throwing some interesting ideas into the mix that other people would’ve been too realistic or ashamed to try, and sometimes they actually worked okay. Mostly I found myself feeling like I was watching ‘a funny YouTube video’ where I would feign interest while trying to remember the video it was that I wanted to show instead.

Anyway, 2/5 because the bits that were good were good but the bits that were bad was the entire film.

[★★☆☆☆]

Dave Roberts


As I Lay Dying at CeX


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