Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Interview

Dave Skylark (James Franco) is the host of an entertainment TV show notorious for its lowbrow interviews which contribute nothing to the betterment of society. Producer Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen) is ever supportive, but begins to doubt his purpose in life after receiving an offhand remark regarding his job from a college friend who works for serious news. He sees an opportunity to be taken seriously when they find out that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un (Randall Park) is an avid fan of the show, and is willing to do a scripted interview with them straight from Pyongyang. CIA Agent Lacey (Lizzy Caplan) contacts the duo proposing a plan to discreetly assassinate the dictator in order to free the country from his repressive government. Dave, however, finds this hard to do as he spends more time and gets to know the dictator on a more personal level.

It is impossible to talk about the film now without taking into consideration the global fuss it has caused. That North Korea reacted the way it did to a satire like this is simply unfortunate, given how everyone knows that this movie is just part of the mainstream fodder Hollywood manufactures every year. It’s Seth Rogen and James Franco, and those who take them seriously are clearly the ones with issues. While the latter has already been nominated for an Academy Award, he is really more popularly known for his wacky movies that do not really make sense most of the time. For him to be a reason for a country on the other side of the world to be all primed up for "merciless response" seems trivial at best.

On the contrary, this does not excuse the arrogance and ignorance of most Americans when it comes to territories over which they have no dominion, but this works both ways and also applies to the self-centeredness of nation-states who think that the world should bow down to them. After all, this is an American film made by Americans for Americans. The American government itself is not even involved in producing this film, and neither is it forcing any other country to play it in their cinemas. The film is offensive alright, but should be taken with a grain of salt.

What Sacha Baron Cohen did in Borat is actually more repulsive, given how he actually conned people into believing that he was making a documentary. There is clear deception there. But for The Interview, there really is nothing but absurdity, and absurdity is not a crime. The movie stays loyal to most of the other collaborations that Rogen and Franco have already done in the past. The subplots are outrageous and rely on crass humor to elicit laughter, which works when you just want to watch something ridiculous and laugh your head off after a very tiring day.

Park’s portrayal of Kim as a soft-spoken dictator is also a constant source of comedy, and even humanizes him somehow. Diana Bang also steals a lot of scenes she is in as Agent Sook, and together with Caplan, brings a much needed hint of femininity to balance an otherwise testosterone-driven storyline. And of course, who can forget the repetitive use of Katy Perry’s Firework, which even figures in a midtempo rendition in one of the plot’s crucial parts.

Laughs aside, The Interview does not really offer anything substantial to the political discourse regarding the two Koreas. As a political critique on the current regime in the North, it does nothing but echo what the West has already decided to believe about the said dictatorship from way back. This brings us back to the main argument: If you take this film seriously, then the joke is obviously on you.

When a locally-produced film criticizes a regime halfway across the world, no matter how uninformed the critique may appear to be, that still falls under freedom of speech. If anything, it is only reflective of the damaged culture that country has, which is their problem, not ours. But when one country dictates what movies another should be watching and threatens military action if not acknowledged, is that not an evident attack on sovereignty? 

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