Friday, January 14, 2011

Nice Guy Johnny (2010)

After watching "Nice Guy Johnny" I thought to myself this is what niche film making is all about.  What niche you ask?  The niche of "twenty something angst" movies.   There seems to be a lot of movies that have come and gone, and I can only classify them in that category.  These movies are not to be confused with "teenage angst" movies.  Those two types of genres are completely different.  In the "teenage angst" movies it's all about authority, and sticking it to those who have authority over them.  Parents, teachers, and pretty much any grown up above 18.  "Twenty something angst" movies are about the many choices one has in life and picking that choice even though it may not be the grown up thing to do.  Usually "twenty something angst" films deal with careers, love, and or sex.  "Nice Guy Johnny" is about career, sex, and being happy doing what you love, and not letting society dictate to you on how to be happy.

These are all good subjects and have been explored throughout cinematic history.  Cassavetes did it with his first film "Shadows."   Director Mike Nichols did it in "The Graduate".  I mention these films because they are far superior films then Nice Guy Johnny.  Now I'm not saying I hated the film.  I respected the work, and all in all the production is well done, and well made.  It was reported that the film was done for $25K, and it looks very good for a film made for that much money.  But I'm thinking it's more of a publicity stunt to garner press for the movie then it is the actual budget.  The film looks really good, and I doubt that if you add up all the deferments that the cast and crew took took while making this film you would find that the budget is much higher then reported.  That's not a bad thing and it certainly doesn't make this film a bad film.  What does make the film a poorer film then the other films I've mentioned is the incessant music that comes up forcing the audiences emotion.  Once in a while that is okay, but the filmmakers hit us over the head with one tune after another.  The only reason  I can explain the music is that the filmmakers want to push the soundtrack as well as the film, which is fine, but don't tell me that it's great film making when you use the music as a crutch.

The interesting thing about this movie is that Edward Burns the director has released this to the web first, and has bypassed conventional film distribution, and I think that this is the one thing that sets this film apart from others.  As I explained it's a niche genre, and by targeting your audience directly through the web Burns builds on a built in audience.  It's what a smart filmmaker does when faced with such diverse products that both cable, the Internet, and film studios churn out.  In interviews Burns says that it is the future of how films will be distributed in the future by filmmakers themselves.  The deal with "Nice Guy Johnny" is that Burns leases the film to companies and he doesn't give up his ownership in the film.  In time he will build a library of films that he can sell, and that will hopefully make him and his investors money.  It sounds like a very smart business plan, and it will be curious to see how it plays out, and if it can be a viable way to make films in the future.

Burns is no stranger to releasing a film this way.  His film "Purple Violets" was released on itunes first.  There have been no figures on how much was made, and who made what, but apparently it was successful to a point, hence his release of "Nice Guy Johnny" in almost the same way.

There is more wrong with the film then right, but it still is a very nice and sweet film about "twenty something angst".  Edward Burns even plays a part in it, and he's pretty funny in it, but it's nothing we haven't seen from Burns before.  The best performances in the film were Kerry Bishé  as Brooke, and Max Baker in a small part as Max.  I wasn't a big fan of Matt Bush who plays Johnny.  At times I thought his character got on my nerves, and he played too "nice".   I mean there is a scene when he is talking to his fiance's father, and you just want him to explode and make a definitive gesture about his independence, and his love for what he does.   Marsha Dietlein plays Nicole (the fiance) and she plays it as a stereotype.  It would have been more interesting to see some more depth there, but there was none in the screenplay so I can't fault her there. 

This brings me to story.  I loved the theme, and I love what the story is about.  Passion for ones love (career, relationship, or other).  I feel it falls flat.   I hate that the characters are all one dimensional, and that there is no surprise for us.  It's all so typical, and the ending is seen coming a mile away.  That's why I'm not a big fan of this film.  If you like this type of movie I think you'll enjoy it.  Maybe you have to be a certain age to really love this film, but to me it says nothing new, and it does it poorly.  Other films do it better.

With that said I'm a big fan of Edward Burns.  I loved his film "The Brothers McMullen".    Even "She's the One" is a favorite of mine.  Burns is a good filmmaker and with good material Burns hits home runs, so I'm sure he'll do so again.  So if you like films that are whimsical, and about "twenty something angst" you may like this film.  For me it lays flat, so I can't recommend it.

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