Sunday, November 2, 2008

Kevin Smith and the Look of Love

There is a moment in Zack and Miri Make a Porno that sums up the best and worst of director Kevin Smith. It comes as Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) are doing what we knew they would do since the movie started.

Broke and desperate the two slackers decide to make a bare-budget porno to pull themselves out of debt. (Kevin's Smith's wry commentary on the financial crisis? No probably not.) So the time has come for Z&M to play their part and join the cast of bare-bottomed amateurs.

The setting is a Starbucks knockoff Zack works at during the day. Night comes and the pronto pornographers draw the curtains and get to work.

After an awkward bit of coffee shop foreplay ("Oh, would you like some of my creme?") Zack throws Miri down on a sack of coffee beans. Really. Then giving hope to pudgy but funny class clowns everywhere, Seth Rogen begins to bone Elizabeth Banks.

The camera zooms in, nothing spicy, it's all above the neck, and we watch as things go from silly to sublime in seconds. Shooting the two in golden hues borrowed from CSI Miami, it's obvious something cosmic is taking place. Smith whose never been accused of subtly further underscores the moment by laying down some post-grunge music (the band Live actually) the wash of guitars urging them along.

Can a moment be simultaneously touching and ridiculous? That, you might say is the charm of Kevin Smith. An oasis of romance in an ocean of ass and poo jokes.
Even during the sex scene, Smith can't help himself, cutting away from the moment to throw in a a couple jokes from onlooking crew. But this scene, this connection is what Kevin Smith is about. Beneath the brutal frat boy humour and scatter gun pop culture references, Smith is a big fat mushy romantic. Being a stocky bearded fellow himself, Smith has an affinity to the underdog. He knows the fragile ego of the modern manboy. If anyone can help continue Seth Rogen's charm offensive, it's Smith the screenwriter. And it doesn't hurt that his female characters are a step above the typical Van Wilder bimbettes.

As with most Smith movies, the relationships are better than the comedy. (The best so far being Chasing Amy.) At this point I'm tiring of Smith's brand of funny, like Tarantino with tourettes sans violence. What I'd really like to see him do is drop the crude act altogether and go with his heart. Come on Kevin. You could be the John Hughes our your generation. Reach for the glory. Gives us your Breakfast Club and save us the agony of Clerks 3.

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