I’ve been struggling on the how of criticising Deadpool 2 (what no witty subtitle?) for just about a week now. Not because there’s loads to criticise, or even that I really disliked it. No, the problem lies in its relationship to itself, or more accurately Deadpool’s relationship to the entire construct that surrounds him.
The twist at the end of Tully comes pretty much as expected for anyone familiar with Diablo Cody’s body of work, it plays right her preoccupations as a creator. You know how people enjoy dismissing artists work by pointing out the themes that they enjoy exploring, reciting the trivia list of their IMDb page as though that amounts to substantive criticism. Whatever, Cody’s writing has always been intergenerational, the interesting part of her evolution is in where she chooses to lay the focus.
I guess if this were being produced a decade ago, you’d expect a comedy about a group of parents trying to stop their teenage girls from getting laid would be gross. Not in a normal sex comedy way but in a weird patriarchal way. I’m trying now to think about what else was going on a decade ago but female led comedies never really found their place in the Apatow family until Bridesmaids. Even then there’s a level of security that comes from Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Amy Schumer all being grown adults. Like we can trust them to not embarrass themselves because their messiness comes from a place of security.
It seems like through Wes Anderson’s filmography, while his style has moved towards the realm of extreme formalism, the stories he employs it to tell are spacing out into these maximalist folds. His worlds contain seemingly boundless possibilities, unconcerned by form or structure the characters bounce from event to event as strung along by some dream logic. Whatever sense exists in Anderson’s dialogue, and it is easily malleable, buffeted by strange winds and desires, serves to chase the characters to some new episode. Always unexpected, always inventive.
It’s a mean fucking film. I know it’s supposed to be a satire of the bourgeoisie, the privileged elite, the art set. Those who have made the crucial mistake to be richer than everyone else, but continue to lead their public lives in a way so unrelatable to the rest of us. It comes up to rival Rick Alverson’s work in the level of sheer antipathy that it has for its subjects. That’s when I say in a small voice that sure, I sorta agree with it but I do actually like a lot of postmodern contemporary art.
So this is what happened to all the tightly constructed thrillers that we used to have twenty years ago. They just became the Funny Movies. Like, since the original Hangover they’ve both been cribbing from the same playbook, except instead of waking up with a cadaver and whatever local mob boss gunning for you, it’s just replaced with a series of spiralling comic hijinks. Game Night even draws up its own convoluted web of organised crime, shadowy masterminds who ain’t all that they seem, hard pressed paranoia. The only thing that makes it a comedy is that it’s about the Funny People.
There’s mess in the life of Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson. Nothing quite adds up for her in the way it’s supposed to, or maybe she’s just getting the sums wrong. It’s telling in a way that the character is bad at maths and you ever really find out what she’s good at. Aside from making a scene, or trying to be about as alive as she can be in any given moment. Her impulses rarely serve her well but they’re hers.