Bamboo Review: Get Him To The Greek
So, I cracked and went to go see “Get Him To The Greek”, even though I was like one of the few people out there who didn’t really like “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”, and roughly the same group of people made both movies. What can I say? Movies from the Apatow factory often annoy me in major ways, but they’re usually pretty funny, and I needed a hearty laugh. Which I naturally got. But I have to say, out of pretty much the entire Apatow factory of films, this one ranks with “Superbad” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” in terms of actually being a pretty good movie as well as just a laugh factory. Not that it isn’t without its flaws, but I have to say I really liked it.
And it was a gazillion times better than “The Hangover”, while mining the same Lost Weekend theme. The drug humor was suitably surreal, and the sex jokes were genuinely raunchy, instead of just being misogyny disguised as raunch. It helps that the two movies come from different worlds. The characters in “The Hangover” are douchebags, and it’s hard to care what a bunch of overgrown frat boy douchebags do. But this movie is about a sweet A&R guy, his girlfriend the doctor, and a drug addict rock star. By default, these are more interesting people than the douchebags in “The Hangover”—say what you will about A&R folks, but at least they, you know, like music.
This movie is probably way funnier to people who care about the music industry. If you’re really indifferent to it, or don’t know much about it, some of the best bits won’t matter to you. But for me, this movie worked so well because they actually bothered to dig in a little with the satire of pop music and the failing record industry that backs it. For instance, they drew heavily on Lily Allen when crafting the character who is the focus of the rock star Aldous’s attentions. (They actually bothered to write entertaining, funny songs for the movie, and one of hers drew one of the biggest laughs.) Aldous reminded me of Courtney Love more than anything, but I’m sure there’s more than one male rock star on the wane who has decided to replace not sucking with an enormous pile of drugs. Russell Brand plays the character to a hilt—I can’t say I’ve ever seen such a hilariously accurate portrait of a egomonster rock star. Sorry, “Almost Famous”. Casting Sean Combs as the head of the record label was a stroke of genius, too. Many of the best jokes in the movie are basically are cracks on pop music, from over-earnest “saving the world” songs to the fucked up way that tabloid media and the industry encourage the talent to engage in self-destructive behaviors.
The thing about movies either directly made by Judd Apatow or even just produced by him is that most of them give you this huge dose of always-welcome raunchy laughter, but then they try to tie it to actual themes, which makes them a drag. I don’t have a problem with the effort—I applaud them for it—but most of the time, they fail to sell the story. I don’t buy that it’s good that the couple gets together at the end of “Knocked Up”. I was furious that “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” concluded that Sarah had to be humiliated for having the temerity to end a bad relationship.
This movie tries the same trick, but this time they succeed. The movie actually had some interesting ideas about things like balancing your career and your home life. The conclusion is nuanced: “Depends on the person.” Aldous does better for himself by focusing on his art instead of letting things like his relationships or image of himself rule him. But Jonah Hill’s character Aaron chooses happiness by following his girlfriend to Seattle, and abandoning his sexist notion that she’s cutting his balls off by not abandoning her career goals for his. It also worked well as a swipe at the modern celebrity obsession, where someone’s actual work matters less than the fact that they’re famous and good fodder for tabloids.
By the way, Elizabeth Moss’s character Daphne is a small correction to the long-standing problem in Apatow & Friends films, where girlfriends-and-wives are sticks in the mud for no good reason, dependent, and humorless. It’s far from a perfect correction, since Daphne is still playing something of the stick in the mud role, but she’s actually given a good reason. We’re made to understand that usually she’s a blast, but since she’s doing her residency and never sleeps, she’s simply unable to get out much. But she actually gets to crack jokes, and it’s she and not he who is willing to engage in some crazy sexual experimentation. Also, she gets to smack Aaron down in one of the biggest laugh lines when he asks if she’s crabby because she’s on her period.
Of course, she’s just one character. Since the movie is about following a rock star around, most of the women you see are basically just groupies and bubbleheads. There’s also a bizarre scene with one of the groupies where she sexually assaults Aaron, which actually works better than it sounds. This movie really is willing to dig in to the dark humor, and the whole scene is played less for “ha ha” laughs and more for nervous, WTF sick humor. The audience clearly didn’t know what to make of it, until the next scene, where Aaron—who was in a bad spot before, but is completely fucked up now—sits down and says, “I think I was just raped.” The choice to go there was mollified somewhat by his friends’ reaction, which is completely not like you’d get in a less intelligent bro comedy—they actually, in their small, stupid, drug-addled way, express sympathy for his plight instead of bag on him about it. They’re not getting any awards for sensitivity, but I was intrigued by the fact that they didn’t pretend that it was something that it’s not, either. And it’s the topper to what is a smaller theme throughout the movie, which is basically the rejection of the masculinity imperative to prove yourself by being a sleazeball. They show Aaron bored in a strip club, saying no to sex with a groupie, and generally being disenchanted with the whole dudely imperative (after trying it on a little and finding it not to his taste), and we in the audience are meant to assume he’s actually a normal, healthy guy for doing so. And that none of this makes him asexual. I really appreciated that.