Thursday, November 18, 2010

Life As We Wish It Could Be -- Reflections on "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" (2010)

I think this is a picture of me in high school (psst...I'm the one hitting the wall)

When I was a teenager, I used to live in two worlds: the "real" world and "my" world. My world was a world of wonders, where people said cool things, moved in cool ways, and pretty much lived out their lives like characters in a movie or a comic book.

When I'd go up to girls, I'd imagine their hearts would melt at my off-hand, suave comments. When I'd get into a conflict with another guy, I'd beat the crap out of him, Spider-Man style. All this because, when you think about it, reality sucks.

Edgar Wright's brilliant geek-masterpiece, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, understands the world young adults live in -- a world teetering on the line between fantasy and reality. It's a world where kissing leads to hearts exploding from your lips and breaking-up takes place on the backdrop of a dark void.

Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is a self-involved 22-year old (Rating: Awesome) who plays bass guitar in a local Toronto-based indie band called Sex Bomb-omb. He has just started a rebound relationship with Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), a 17-year old Asian, Catholic high school student. Things get complicated when he meets the mysterious, beautiful Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who is literarlly the girl of his dreams. They begin a relationship, and then the real problems begin.

Everybody carries baggage with them from previous relationships, but Ramona's is something special. She has "seven evil exes" who've all come together to create the Evil League of Evil Exes. Like a video game, Scott is forced to battle each of the exes, one after the next, learning more about Ramona and himself along the way.

The film is bright, the edits manic, the shots composed with the dramatic intensity of the best comic books and Japanese anime. Wright's choice to fashion the fights after video games, with point totals, visual sound effects, and characters exploding into piles of coins, is inspired. It's the perfect visualization of a young man struggling with his insecurities over his girlfriend's past.

And ultimately, that's what this film is about -- how we create fantasy worlds in which we play out the shit in our lives. The characters are cartoons, yet so very real. Scott's passive-aggressive energy, Ramona's sardonic independence, Knives' puppy love -- on some level, we can all relate to these people.

If you're not looking for anything deep, there are a lot of guilty pleasures to be had here as well. I love Kieran Culkin as Wallace, Scott's gay roomate who texts in his sleep and seems to convert every man into a homosexual lover. There are great graphics, like the "Pee Bar" that appears over Scott's head when he uses the restroom to show us just how full his bladder is. And Ramona's evil exes are loads of fun, especially Brandon Routh as Todd, who's strength comes from the superiority that apparently goes along with being vegan.

Scott Pilgrim is one of the best films of this year, an inventive take on the quest for love and self-respect. Enjoy the ride!

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