Sunday, December 4, 2011

Day 4: Sleeping Dogs Lie

"It's important to lie. It's trying to live up to the lies we tell that makes us better people."

Bobcat Goldthwait has had one of the more interesting careers in the history of entertainment. He started as a stand-up, became a substantially successful character actor, wrote and directed one of the funniest movies of the 90's (Shakes the Clown), set Jay Leno's couch on fire (which I was watching when it happened), then re-invented himself as a television writer and director, returning to features with Sleeping Dogs Lie (originally titled Stay).

I am not exaggerating when I say that anyone who's ever kept a secret in a relationship should see this movie. It's one of the most honest movies I've seen and it deals with somewhat outlandish subject matter in a way that doesn't make it feel forced or absurd. The plot centers around Amy (Melinda Page Hamilton) who has just gotten engaged to John (Bryce Johnson). On the night of their engagement, John confesses to something embarrassing and encourages Amy to do the same. She scoffs at first, then is about to admit to her most embarrassing secret when she makes something else up. Her real secret is that on a boring and desperate night in college, she gave her dog a blow job. While this sounds outrageous and borderline nonsensical, the movie never treats it that way, and actually gets the audience on her side immediately, so that when the time comes for her to reveal the secret to her fiance, we're firmly on her side in the ensuing meltdown.

On a trip to meet Amy's parents, she reveals her secret to John, but unbeknownst to them, her meth addict brother (Jack Plotnick) overhears, eventually telling everyone in the family. Moments before she tells John her secret, he tells her that when he was in camp as a kid, he played toss the cookie, one of those urban legend games that I grew up hearing about as soggy biscuit, where a bunch of dudes in a circle jerk off onto a cookie (or biscuit) and the last guy to finish has to eat said baked good, and surprise, surprise, John was the one who had to eat it. This revelation of a disgusting secret leads Amy to feel safe enough to tell John hers, and he is immediately repulsed by it and holds it against her, eventually leading to the end of their relationship. And all that's just the first half of the movie. Seeing as how it's unlikely that anyone reading this will have seen the movie, I won't go any further into the plot, but it's very good and has an extremely satisfying conclusion.

Goldthwait has a keen ear as a writer and infuses each of his characters with real neuroses, making them that much more well-rounded. He is very much in the vein of John Waters, twisted subject matter, sympathetic characters, and love almost always conquers all in the end. His next film, God Bless America, sounds like he'll be continuing in this same manner as he did for his subsequent film World's Greatest Dad with Robin Williams. Robin Williams is actually the perfect actor for films of this ilk as he is able to infuse demented and even deranged characters with enough empathy that it makes them real people (see Insomnia, One Hour Photo, and The Fisher King for further examples of this).

I look forward to Goldthwait's work now having seen all three of his features that he's released and thoroughly enjoyed all of them. His interview on Marc Maron's WTF podcast is also very good, and I would recommend it to anyone who is maybe not sold on him as someone with discernible talent. Sleeping Dogs Lie is a movie for anyone who's ever known the value of keeping something secret in a relationship, and if that isn't you, you probably shouldn't be in a relationship to begin with.

Tomorrow's film will be Terry Gilliam's 1998 adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas with Johnny Depp and Benicio DelToro.

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