Southland Tales ★★★½

As far as I can tell, Richard Kelly's enigmatic Southland Tales is one of the most controversial movies of the last 25 years; maybe even of all time. I've heard so many different thoughts and opinions on it (mostly bad) throughout my time as a serious cinephile that I've always been worried to give it a shot. I mean, I don't ever want to watch anything that I'd go into saying "This is gonna fuckin' suck". 

But with the current state of American politics, there has been a sort of resurgence in praise for what Richard Kelly calls his "misunderstood child". While the hate for Southland Tales still seems to outweigh the love, I figured now was a better time than any to give it a fair shot. I have to say, it's definitely nowhere near as bad as it's touted to be. However, it is certainly pretty messy, a bit inconsistant in tone, and by the end it feels like something was missing; or maybe my dumbass just missed something. Who knows. I know there is a prequel series of graphic novels Richard Kelly wrote to fully flesh out his wild and crazy universe, but I feel like you'd have to be completely enamored by the initial experience of Southland Tales to want to dig that deep into the mythology of it all. I wish I was! 

Southland Tales had the potential to be something truly incredible. The first and second acts set up stories and characters that sucked me in and had me invested, but once we reach the third act, everything goes off the rails. Any aparent story it had going for it seemingly gets thrown out the window, and that may have been the point, but at least on this viewing I wasn't too into it. It's not so bad however that it ruined the ultimate experience of the film. It's clearly a ridiculous satire on American politics that was way too ahead of its time to even be appreciated at the time of its initial release. But now in 2017, a lot of it felt eerily familiar. 

Southland Tales is definitely not a film for everyone though. I mean, if your views on politics stray far away from Kelly's, the film will probably infuriate you; because it is rather angry and blatantly sarcastic. And if you have no interest in politics, than Southland Tales would probably come off as absolutely ridiculous and maybe even a little boring. I didn't feel like I had a hard time following the film, but by the end I felt like I'd definitely lost track of a few things. But on the bright side, I thought it was pretty hilarious (in a good way), I was intrigued from start to finish, and the cast (who I would normally assume wouldn't give the best performances) actually all serve their roles quite well and really embrace the satirical nature of Southland Tales.

I don't know if I'd ever revisit Southland Tales again, but I wouldn't rule out the idea! It's quite possible that on a second view I could love it, I don't think I could ever see myself saying I hate it. No matter what, I have to commend Richard Kelly for creating a vision and bringing his vision to the screen. Whatever your opinions are on the film, it's undeniably unique, stylish, and probably smarter than most will give it credit. Southland Tales almost feels like Lynch adapting Pynchon, but not quite as good as you'd imagine that might be. Still worth checking out though, if not to just have an opinion on it for internet debates.

Jesse liked these reviews