Southland Tales

Southland Tales ★★★½

Imagine for a second, that Richard Kelly never made another film after Donnie Darko. He never destroyed his masterpiece with that disastrous director's cut, and he never had the chance to squander the potential he initially presented with this film or The Box.* Instead, Kelly became a What if? filmmaker who never had the chance to make another film, and all because his next project lost its funding at the last minute. Kelly was discouraged by the sudden termination of his passion project, and never made another film.

So then you hear about the film after the fact as a part of one of those "Greatest Films You'll Never See" sorts of lists, and this is the sort of stuff you would read in that article:

The director of Donnie Darko is given a substantial budget to make a film about interdimensional time travel, terrorism, celebrity, revolutionary groups, espionage, social satire, porn stars, capitalism, alternative energy, and the biblical end of the world. A kitchen-sink sort of movie with all of his directorial interests, with heavy influence from Philip K Dick, Andy Warhol, and film noir.

The ensemble cast includes Dwayne Johnson, Sean William Scott, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Wallace Shawn, Justin Timberlake, Mandy Moore, Kevin Smith, Bai Ling, Jon Lovitz, Amy Poehler, Curtis Armstrong, and Zelda Rubinstein. Kelly also suggests that he wants these actors to play against type, putting them into roles you wouldn't expect.

An original soundtrack by Moby. Filling in the rest of the soundtrack will be artists such as The Pixies, Blur, Radiohead, Muse, and The Killers. The film will include several choreographed musical numbers.

In addition to the film, Kelly will be promoting a multimedia approach to his storytelling, which will include a series of prequel graphic novels, so that the film starts at Chapter 4.

The length of the script assumes an estimated epic three hour running time.


Sounds like it would be a pretty great film, eh?

And instead, Southland Tales is a fucking mess of a film. It's honestly a 1-star film, but I'm kicking it up a bit because it fails so spectacularly despite having so much potential.

This film certainly makes me rethink all of those "Best Films You'll Never See." It's probably more likely that they would be more like Southland Tales than the masterpieces we hope they would have been.



*I do have a sick fascination and possibly even enjoy The Box and Southland Tales in some twisted way, as despite being incoherent, Kelly's narrative disasters are at least enthralling because few filmmakers like Kelly are handed big budgets to screw around with. At the very least, Kelly's films post-Donnie Darko are substantially entertaining.