A film can be important or captivating without being good. The Interview is not good, per se, though there are many memorable moments sprinkled throughout the movie. Nevertheless, considering the chaos surrounding its release and the contemptibility of its antagonist, it makes for a fascinating viewing experience. Because of the film’s unique subject matter and release, I think it’s necessary to answer some special questions that help determine whether or not you should watch it.
Does watching the film potentially count as an act of defiant patriotism against a tyrannical and dehumanizing state?
Funny you should ask!
There are endless ways to approach and analyze the Sony hackings and responses and threats and so on. Regardless of your view, this film finding its way to reach an audience should be seen as a victory in some sense. When I first read of the film’s cancelled release, I must admit I felt a sort of diminutive helplessness. To have something and someone and some place so mockable and derisive wield the power to stop us from expressing ourselves seemed wrong. I’m thrilled that Sony proceeded to release the film, and you should be too, even if the film itself is not groundbreaking.
Does the film contain James Franco befriending the leader of a tyrannical and dehumanizing state?
How did you know?!
Franco’s Dave Skylark is shallow and malleable and at times hilarious. Franco plays the part with all sorts of earnestness, which makes for both comedic highs and lows. Some people may find themselves uncomfortable when watching Dave chum it up with Kim Jong-un – on the basketball court, in the club, cruising in a tank while “Firework” blasts out – but for me those moments were a highlight. Throughout the film, Dave and Rogen’s Aaron relentlessly reference Lord of the Rings, with Dave seeing himself as Frodo on his mission to destroy evil. This leaves the manipulative Kim as Gollum, albeit as a Gollum who parties wildly and gets emotional about his father. For me, the reduction of Kim – by all accounts a horrible and ruthless man – to a fangirl in turmoil is highly entertaining. For many, though, casting Kim as Gollum may not play well, seeing as we know he’s far closer to a Sauron.
Mostly, the skewering of North Korea’s leader plays out as one would expect from Franco and Rogen. There’s potty humor – “[Kim] does not have a butthole” – and absurd catharsis – the dictator’s “You know what’s more destructive than nuclear bombs? Words.” – that provide big laughs without making any sort of legitimate political statement. Some viewers may fault the film and its makers for this inaction, but really what do you expect? Surely we have others who can make those statements, and these guys can have their fun.
Does the film offer an interesting take on American (pop) culture while also reminding us of the horrible living conditions in North Korea?
Rogen and co-director Evan Goldberg may not offer a scathing satire, but they do bring American media and popular culture forward as a sort of mutated weapon, capable of both manipulating and being manipulated when confronting serious issues or individuals. Thankfully, they denounce their fictional Kim’s attempts at making America the villain. They do, however, poke fun at our main exports. In North Korea, America is the source of obesity, Katy Perry, and glossy celebrity talk shows.
The story allows the media to play a role in taking down the cruel regime, but its message remains rather unclear. Aaron has always wanted more than the superficial interviews he produces for Skylark, and there is some surprising poignancy when he gets it with Kim, but the film’s balance between farce and satire is inconsistent.
Is Annyong in this movie?
Yes, he (Justin Lee) appears briefly. Oscars, here he comes!
Depending on how tense North Korea and its volatile leader make you feel, The Interview could either win you over with its klutzy charm or disappoint you with what could be viewed as political apathy. Know thyself, some famous wise guy once said. Listen to him. Then decide if this is for you. Just remember: if you don't see this film, the terrorists win...or something.