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Hal MacDermot [Film Festival 04.25.09] movie review comedy drama



Year: 2009
Directors: David Lee Miller
Writers: Eric J. Adams, David Lee Miller, Jordan J. Miller, Gabriel Sunday
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: cyberhal
Rating: 8.8 out of 10

[Coverage from the Newport Beach Film Festival]

I’ve never seen anything quite like My Suicide, and it blew me away. Dark, totally hilarious and an insane mix of shooting techniques, it’s like you took young filmmakers with A.D.D. and then gave them a lot of cool equipment and drugs. Which apparently is the effect that that David Lee Miller was going for. My Suicide is a dark coming of age teen comedy, but told through a breathtaking whirlwind of shooting techniques, fast paced edits and movie/tv homage riffs that left my gob wide open. Not to mentioned a kick ass sound track that includes Radiohead, Brighteyes and Rocky Votolato.


Seventeen year old Archie Williams (Gabriel Sunday) lives in the guest house of his affluent parents, where he’s lived since he was 11. Archie the geek is suicidal. He’s sick of all the bullshit, and he has so much stuff that none of it means anything anymore. Luckily for us, a lot of his stuff is video equipment and in fact he sees his life as one big on-camera experience. Archie decides to glue his two obsessions together and as he tells his media teacher in class: “For my project I’m going to kill myself on camera.” We are watching Archie’s film project, and luckily this boy has talent and well as a death wish.

The first part of the movie takes us on a trip through Archie’s past. All kinds of footage is burned through, including home video, animation/reality mix, advertising banners, rotoscope, digital handheld, and God knows what else. I loved the flashback to Archie age 3 under attack from “bitchy girl punches.” There’s certainly enough movie homage to keep any film freak happy. From Apocalypse now, through to the Brady Bunch, Donny Darko and the Big Lebowski, and a billion more. Usually I think movie homage is boring and self indulgent, but in this case it really adds to the storytelling, I think because the story is all about media drenched kids and their media lives. The clips are mixed in perfectly, and I guess that’s why the film took 4 years to make. In the Q and A afterwards, Booke Neeve who plays the hot chick Sierra Silver mentioned that there were only actually 26 shooting days, although because of the evolving nature of the project they often had to go out and shoot more footage guerilla style. This is a script full of great lines “I was a TV foetus” (his Mum watched load of TV). It’s also a script that could only have been written partially in edit, as new footage is being cut in every few seconds.

Archie’s commitment to suicide gets him noticed by the school psyche police and also the real police, and he’s hauled in for questioning. These scenes are the stuff of genius, as he imagines the terrible things his animated alter egos would do to the psychologist bought in to analyze him. Archie’s arrest gets him noticed by the whole school, but especially by the super hot but also f**ked up girl Sierra Silver. She pursues him and forces a meeting (nice to see the girl after the boy) and it turns out that they both share a love of the almost mythical beat “poet of death” Vargas, who is brilliantly played by David Carradine. His performance is believable, over the top and moving. Nora Dunn as Archie's psycho-Mom had me scared. Archie invites Sierra over to his den, and they begin to film and question each other. They quickly bond over their dark and violent dreams, and the terrible consequences cannot be contained.

My Suicide captures the self-obsessed, narcissistic, hormone driven, drug flavored like few others have. Gabriel Sunday delivers a manic and intense performance that makes all of this possible. Brooke Neeve’s desperate beauty and self hate is the perfect complement. It’s a more “realistic” approach from the more fantastical but also brilliant Wristcutters (2006). My only quibble with My Suicide is the last part of the film, which I thought lost power. It felt to me as if the filmmakers lost the courage that enabled them to “go there” earlier on. The reason why that razorblades that make you wince and humor are replaced by feel good resolutions was resolved in the Q & A, when Miller explained that the movie originally came partly out of a desire to confront the evil of teenage suicide, which he said was the second biggest killer. Something about a youth group called Regeneration.

Now, while I’m sure he’s totally right-on that action is needed, I am personally allergic to message movies and I don’t think they fool anyone. Story first. Most of this movie is just that, story, the crazy, funny, harsh picture of suicidal teenage lives. Check out the power and humor of the in your face close up reaction shots of people at school, the bros, the Goths, the Christians (God bless them) the liberal asshole teacher. Some are outraged, most think it’s good entertainment. In the very last part, I think the filmmakers let the whole ‘we have a message’ determine the story direction, and the result was a loss of truth, power and art. Having said this, it’s still an amazing movie, and you should see it. The fact that a retarded system of censorship will prevent many teens from legally seeing this movie in the cinema is an indictment of the system that drives people to suicide. Another brick in the wall, as it were.

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lucas moreira (7 years ago) Reply

wow, never heard about, but now I can't wait to see this!

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dmcdonald (7 years ago) Reply

I lost my son to suicide. I think it's important to reflect real life on the screen. Hopefully this movie will be insightful and not the tipping point for those who are vulnerable.

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Luke Malone (7 years ago) Reply

This movie takes every modern cliche about teens and applies them to a completely unsympathetic narcissist who has no reason to feel suicidal. I've never felt so condescended to by a movie, and I'd never walked out of a movie until tonight. Don't look for insight here - literally the worst thing I have ever attempted to watch.


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