A Scanner Darkly
The centerpiece of this evening's Guys' Night Out, other than an Uno's pizza that left us feeling well and truly stuffed, was Richard Linklater's latest, his rotoscoped adaptation of the PK Dick novel, A Scanner Darkly (IMDB). It's an interesting little movie, and the first sign of that was that our local megaplex tucked it away in one of their three downstairs screens, the ones reserved for
smaller audiences a more intimate viewing experience. To be fair, it was larger (slightly) than my 1-bedroom apartment. Anyways.
I can't really talk too much about the movie without spoiling it, so I'll abstain from too many specifics. Like a lot of Linklater's work, SD is a mix of genres--when it works it works, and when it fails, it feels jumbled. There were spots that didn't work as well as they maybe could have, but generally they were places where Linklater was relying on either audience knowledge or sophistication. In some ways, the movie worked a lot like a graphic novel, and specifically the way that you must often fill in the gaps between panels. Particularly with the ending of the movie, there's a fair amount of extrapolation that has to take place, but there are places throughout where this is also true. That's going to be the source of some criticism from expositiophiles, but I didn't find it all that troublesome. And in fact, it was a welcome break from some of the truly crappy, overly expositional dialogue that appears in standard Hollywood fare.
Although you can't really speak of the acting in a movie where there's such heavy direction, Downey and Harrelson (and even Cochrane, although he's a little more caricatured) definitely steal the show from Keanu, who's appropriately cast here (if never approvingly), and Ryder. Downey, for me, after this movie and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, has almost become a class of actor unto himself. There aren't a lot of people I'd rather watch on the screen more than him right now.
I've heard that the Dick estate really liked this movie, and I can't blame them. It's a much "smaller" movie than, say, Pirates, which in its second week was being advertised, aggressively, as the "cultural phenomenon of the year." I liked Pirates, but the things about it I didn't like were all of the little Hollywood touches, and that kind of crap is absent from SD. It's a really faithfully executed adaptation of one of Dick's most personal books, and the bar against which future adaptations should be measured. If you're not bothered by scifi or by visual experimentation, then this is a full price movie, I think.