I hate this film.
I hate this film so much.
Because it’s so good, because it’s so real and because it’s so… me.
When a film hits you hard over the head with its big fat foot of ‘close-to-home’ then you know you’re in for a tearsfest. I’ve cried at Doctor Who, Shadow of the Colossus and god knows how many films. Dan In Real Life decides to punch my guts and remind me of just how horrible a life I lead. I’m not sure if this will be “Nathan Critique Corner” as much as it is “Film Critique Corner” but I feel that DIRL represents something in movies. It’s when a film can relate to someone on a very, very intricate and often subtle level. The subtitles and engineered elements all combined to perhaps not to suck me/people like me into this world but they seek something else; humanity.
Great characters are human beings or exhibit human traits we find endearing. I possess none of these. I am a semi-successful writer with a next-to-nothing social life who spends his days watching Starcraft 2 eSports and proudly waving the banner of “Games are art, you know?” ich bin ein nerd and all that. What I find odd is the correlation between Dan’s life and mine: semi-successful writer, alienated from his family and (you guessed it) a troubled love life. My experience with love hasn’t exactly made me think it’s the best thing in the whole damn world, it’s made me cynical, now my little brain thinks it’s just some dumb chemical that people have lived and died over and there’s nothing I can do to control said chemical.
Dan’s life then mirrors mine in that there are similar problems and we both seem to be within that bookish quality and a time in our lives when everything needs to go wrong for the universe to work. I honestly believe that, if there is a omnipotent being, he’s an asshole and has it out for me. Except I don’t believe that and I’m not telling you what exactly I believe in, maybe some other time, but for now lets discuss how horrible my life is and why on Earth you should care. As said before, love is a stupid thing and I hate how it can determine my emotional state with little control.
I’ve had this stupid chemical itch for years over someone and it hurts and yet I happily blabber on about the fact that I’d happily spend the rest of my alone and even die alone. It’s not a case of giving up or not even trying, it’s me being the hardcore realist capitalist scumbag I am and I see a lot of that in Dan in Real Life. The giant obstacle of the non-jerk blocking your chance at perhaps being with the one. I feel that Dan’s brother is a personified version of all of my problems; lack of social power, anxiety problems, this is getting way too personal and I meant for this to only span half of the column to lay the groundwork for my points.
Films have a power to connect with us on a very weird level. Video-games do this too, but on an even weirder level, read my books if you don’t believe me. Films operate in that the audience is given little interactive yet there is a relationship maintained. Characters like Downey Jr.’s Tony Star in Iron Man exhibit the ‘hang-out’ qualities, all of PIXAR’s characters are all funny and human and Steve Carell’s Dan (which is a tremendous performance by the way) exhibits qualities of… me. Is this true of any other film? Not in the specifically ‘me’ sense but in the ‘representing audience’s problems’ or ‘identifying them’ sense.
I’ve been thinking about this for a week or so and perhaps it’s just me and this film and there is no way to tell which film will touch which people in which way. Over here in the United Kingdom we have a bloke called Sir Terry Pratchett who was diagnosed with Alzheimers not too long ago, he’s doing something similar tomorrow, after working on many documentaries based around the condition and tomorrow evening he’ll be showing off his latest work on euthanasia. There’s been a big massive raucous around the BBC’s attitude towards said issue and it’s touched a nerve with a lot of people on various sub-topics which also involve the fact that it’s Carers Week here in the UK tomorrow.
Maybe give this a read.
Media, fiction or non-fiction, touches different people in the most weirdest of ways because that’s what human is. It’s weird. It’s not a criticism to say that some elements won’t touch me. Romantic comedies where the hero gets the girl and overcomes the atypical ‘jerk’ or otherwise social obstacle relate in no way to me but Gore Verbinski’s The Weatherman and its honest comedy and refreshing attitude towards love and life touch me on a bigger level. It isn’t depressing to see it’s a common problem, it’s uplifting to know I’m not the only one and I can easily relate to characters both real and unreal.
Dan In Real Life isn’t really the heart of this film critique corner, it’s more on the effect it’s made me think about and how that can be amplified. It’s personal, really, and sometimes I’m not sure whether or not if it’s done intentionally it can actually hurt. Doctor Who had an episode a while ago involving Vincent Van Gogh and his battle with depression and it had me in fits of tears. Afterwards I thought about whether or not they were just playing with my little history, perhaps just playing on it for ‘entertainment’ and yet I wasn’t really entertained. Whether or not they wanted me to stick around and feel touched for it doesn’t matter, it’s the perception I take on said piece.
Dan In Real Life might as well be Nathan In Real Life without the happy ending.