unpunk 🍭’s review published on Letterboxd:
Donnie Darko is my favorite film; so I avoided Southland Tales for more than a decade. I saw both edits of this and I was reminded of the inferior director's cut of DD. Kelly's less is definitely more. ST could have benefited from the focus, and lower budget, of the original DD.
Did Kelly actually believe he was the next Lynch? How did this happen? ST doesn't deserve "you'll either love it or hate it." This is not Lars von Trier or Gaspar Noe. Even with the parody-of-itself tone, ST is structurally and visually ugly. I was uncomfortable watching the likes of Justin Timberlake and Mandy Moore. It might have helped the overall tone if the "actors" knew what was going on. At one point I thought that ST is asserting a self-aware unpleasantness on purpose, so it leads to a great end. It wasn't, it doesn't.
This is disheartening because I'm a fan of Kelly. ST has glimmers of his strengths. It has intriguing themes (conspiracy, the end of the world, time travel), it uses music well, it has great one-liners and references, and it captures a cultural point in America. It correctly predicted Syria, Trump, internet censorship, and the Patriot Act. Southland Tales could've been great but it isn't. I'm waiting for the day I can say I love more than one Kelly film.