Matt D’Elia’s bat-shit mental debut film is an odd fish to fry. Its been called many things already on it’s limited release; “Pretentious”, “Overbearing”, “Too pink”, “Vile”, “Devoid of anything true”, “Totally honest”, “Uncompromising”, “A simplistic, vomit inducing, grandstanding balls up”, “Pathetic”, “Brilliant”, “Terrible” and even “The best art film ever made” by ScreenJunkies. Splitting audiences is usually a great sign for a film with true power but truth be told American Animal is so sporadicly great and bad that I literally don’t know where to go with this one. The whole film is basically like waiting outside your bi-polar best friends house wondering which one is going to turn up, The sweet one who smells nice, bakes you cakes and tells jokes all day or the one that killed your cat with a house brick.
Two guys called James, one of them who goes by Jimmy (Matt D’Elia, himself) and two girls called Angela (Mircea Monroe and Angela Sarafyan) sit around a ludicrously expensive LA apartment and waste a night while James (Brendon Fletcher) and Jimmy both try keeping secrets from each other.
Jimmy is dying and James has got a job. James is intent on not telling Jimmy in order to keep the latter’s idea of his friend’s true rich kid slacker utopian lifestyle intact while Jimmy is himself wickedly intent on subjecting his three friends to a day of made up languages, sex, frantic, boundary pushing conversation and general social anarchy 101 brought on by his acceptance of his terminal illness and his decision to “be happy”.
Cue, dancing montages, Jimmy dressing up as famous historical figures and endless, endless pop culture references all coated in a screaming, ludicrous, ranting attack on the way we want to live and what we strive for. It’s a fast, bilious, hedonistic, up its own ass mess of a film but there’s something about it which really gets under the skin. To say that D’Elia’s Jimmy is unlikeable would be a gross understatement. A ball of frustration, laziness, hatred and above all else, self importance. But does that make American Animal a self important piece of work? I still don’t know.
The ride is certainly a nasty one and it is all of the things that people are saying it is, and more but its lingering power, for better or worse, can simply not be ignored. A definite pebble in the shoe of a film which I loved watching but not quite liking.