By Gordon Foote.
Its 1995, and I’ve just had my young mind blow by the announcement of a Ben Stiller directed movie starring Ace Ventura and Ferris Bueller! Were that not exciting enough, Stiller has called in a few friends to bulk out the supporting cast, so Jack Black, Owen Wilson, David Cross, and Janeane Garofalo will also be in the movie. The film isn’t out for a year, but I’m already getting my body ready for the structural damage its likely to take from two hours of violent laughter.
Its 1996 and I’m disappointed. The Cable Guy is slightly below average, at best, and lacks the laugh-a-minute pace of Carrey’s earlier hits, as well as failing to deliver a lot of the heart Stiller normally injects into projects. Furthermore, the subject matter isn’t really to my tastes – watching Jim Carrey ruining Broderick’s life was the core reason I didn’t find the film funny. It was difficult to watch; awkward, embarrassing even!
So, here we are in 2013 and I finally get to the point of this self-indulgent, truncated introduction: after 17 years of humanity coalescing on the single notion that “The Cable Guy kinda sucked”, it seems Israeli director, Oren Carmi, has chosen to go against the grain and revisit the subject matter, with largely the same results.
To clarify, I am not claiming that Goldberg and Eisenberg is a remake, nor ripping off The Cable Guy, it’s just the film my brain sprang to very soon after the plot kicked into gear. Dudley Do-Right, Goldberg, is moderately happy in his isolated existence of trawling the internet for girls, and getting stood up with monotonous regularity, when he bumps into local mentalist, Eisenberg, who the film instantly marks out as a bad egg because of his bad poetry and poor social interaction…also, he’s a bit sweary.
The film bumbles on in this way for longer than it needs to, presenting Eisenberg more as a mild annoyance than the deranged stalker Goldberg clearly sees him as. Strangely, this is highlighted within the movie itself, presenting us with a scene in which Goldberg lists his creeper’s crimes to a couple of police officers who stare at him blankly before leaving. I found myself having the same response….yeah, the guy is a bit of a dick, but he’s hardly Charles Manson. Until this point, the film also attempts to splash in a few moments of dark comedy into the mix, which misfire terribly, giving an inconsistent tone and further separate Eisenberg from the obsessive creature he is painted as.
We continue at this pace until a moment in the film which can be pinpointed to the second where “shit gets real”; a jarring shift in tone and character occurs and has the effect of dividing Goldberg and Eisenberg in twain, shifting Eisenberg from a bit of a scamp to a full-on psycho. It’s a strange decision as, until that exact moment, the film seems happy to run the middle ground of not that funny and not that disturbing, then sudden it knuckles down….it’s still not that funny, nor that disturbing, it just seems to try a lot harder to get there.
Subtlety, I would argue, is essential in any kind of psychological horror/thriller; the ability of actors to create tension or fear with the slightest nuance (see Lector already standing, waiting for Clarice), or a director dropping “Gah! How did I not notice that!?!” hints along the path is vital to building to the inevitable payoff. Subtlety, however, is not how Carmi does things. Goldberg is the geek of our piece. We know this because he a)picks up girls online b)has Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and comic book figures around his flat c) arranges to take a perspective date to see X-Men 4, and d) has a pretty sweet Heisenberg poster in his flat.
This is fine, and other films are certainly as heavy handed in their symbolism, but in this case it’s entirely unclear what the point of this information is. Great, I know he’s a geek…at no point does it seem relevant, unless it’s meant to explain why it takes so long for Goldberg to snap, why he never just thumps Eisenberg during one of his taunts, or why while his girlfriend is being called a whore, to her face no less, he makes no attempt to jump in and defend her honour. If that is the case then it just seems like lazy characterisation…perhaps it is 1996 again, after all, when being a “nerd” was a bad thing?
By the same token, Eisenberg’s characterization borders on hilarious at times. We know he is the bad guy because he drinks in public, carries a knife, and hangs out with a guy wearing a swastika on his t-shirt….given that the film is set in Tel Aviv, this is either a sign of pure evil or short life expectancy. So we have a baddie who drinks, is bad at poetry, hangs out with a neo-Nazi, oh, and is confused about his sexuality, so might be gay….because, y’know, why not?
This is not the part of the review where I condemn the inclusion of a possibly gay character as the bad guy as I’m fairly certain there are no ties between sexual orientation and mental instability. What I am going to say is that the writing has to be a hell of a lot better, and more focused, than is on display here to get away with it without coming off as mildly homophobic. Just like Goldberg’s C-3P0 figure, the homosexual thread is unnecessary, a passing addition which, the filmmaker’s seem to indicate, obviously makes Eisenberg more unhinged.
Goldberg and Eisenberg’s foray into obsession falls flat on its face. Just like The Cable Guy, almost two decades earlier, it just doesn’t manage to keep the dark subject matter enthralling enough to warrant audience interest. The attempts at humour are misplaced and uncomfortable to watch, the script is undercooked and the characterization poor. Probably best avoided, unless you’re a big fan of Israeli cinema.
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