Most helpful critical review
Style, mise-en-scene and an absent substance
on 28 September 2010
Whilst the premise seemed good, the final execution failed.
A young, socially inept boy, who seeks identity in the fantasized (perhaps overstated) world of skaters is forced to face his reality after causing the death of another. The central character (Jake Miller) is much like the movie, somewhat removed and dream-like. He seems as if he is merely part of his world, and his interactions are forced and at times staged. If left alone, and allowed to merely exist I suspect he would be a far happier individual, albeit a consequence of his dysfunctional family. If Gus Van Sant was attempting to portray such dysfunction and its consequence on a young mind, he may have partially succeeded, although I am of the opinion his final product is at times overstated and overstylised.
I was not convinced by the characters 'overwhelming guilt', instead I found him to be pathologically removed at times. His lies seemed calculated, as was his interactions with the police. For a displaced young man I found his intentional deception and lack of empathy, substantively revealing and beyond his youthful 'innocence'. Clearly he was either incapable of measuring truth or determined not to accept such. More accurately he finally chooses, and that choice ultimately lacks substance.
In the end the movie was a little grey and unsettled. Almost as if Gus Van Sant was more about setting the scene, as opposed to developing the character. The acting was a little naive, although Jake Miller was not bad. I suspect Van Sant wanted a natural, unrehearsed feel for the final product, which ironically had the effect of making those rehearsed scenes seem staged and unnatural.
Compared to 'Elephant', 'Mysterious Skin' and 'Brick' this film lacks what others have achieved so well.