"In... sensite! You're an insensite!"
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 11/11/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"While watching Bug (2002), I couldn't help think of the line `One thing leads to another' from the 1983 song of the same name by the band The Fixx (I'll explain later). The film was written and directed by Matt Manfredi, who recently finished a screenplay for a live adaptation of Aeon Flux (scheduled release 2005), starring Charlize Theron, based on the fairly violent, highly stylized animated shorts originally shown on MTV's Liquid Television, which appeared way back in 1991, but I digress...
The film is easy enough to understand while watching, but a little more tricky to describe (much like trying to explain a work, without using visuals, done by Rube Goldberg, whose `drawings depict absurdly-connected machines functioning in extremely complex and roundabout ways to produce a simple end result'). It doesn't really star any one actor, or follow any particular storyline, but rather takes a look at cause and effects in terms of six degrees of separation. Have you ever heard the idea of dropping a pebble in the water, creating small ripples that eventually turn into large tidal waves halfway around the world? Or how about someone sneezing in New York, and the relatively minor wind produced from that sneeze eventually building enough force to cause, say, a hurricane in Japan? These scenarios certainly sound silly and unrealistic, but they serve to draw attention to the concept of seemingly minor occurrences eventually snowballing into much larger events or consequences, which is the crux of this film (hence my reference to the song by The Fixx).
The film begins with a small boy squashing a cockroach on a public sidewalk. This upsets a nearby man, who leaves his car to talk to the boy about the possibility that the bug may have had a family and some such nonsense, and subsequently (deservedly, in my opinion) gets a traffic ticket for stopping in a no parking zone. He tries to explain the situation to the officer writing the ticket, but gets nowhere fast (but does get a ticket), and in a frustrated huff, he tears up and discards the ticket, part of which finds its' way into a flooded street gutter, clogging the drain, and causing a sink to back up in a local restaurant...and this goes on and on and on from here, with various results (both positive and negative) including, but not limited to, the death of pets, various arguments, a case of food poisoning, meeting the girl of your dreams, someone losing their job, relationships failing, and a disgruntled fortune cookie message writer composing some very unusual fortunes...
Most notably appearing in the film (I was surprised at the number of faces I recognized, being this was an independent production) is John Carroll Lynch (The Drew Carey Show), Brian Cox (X-Men 2), Jamie Kennedy (Three Kings), Sarah Paulson (Down With Love), Michael Hitchcock (Best in Show), Ed Begley Jr. (A Mighty Wind), and Grant Heslov (The Scorpion King). I enjoyed Brian Cox as a germophobic owner of a Chinese takeout restaurant/doughnut shop (want a bear claw with your kung pow chicken?), and Jamie Kennedy as a Calvinistic fortune cookie writer, but the character I most enjoyed was that of Grant, played by Heslov, a terminally sad sack individual who was consistently on the receiving end of the more negative outcomes of the events. The story tends to take on `a day in the life' quality (in this case, that of a small group of individuals rather than just one person), as seemingly unconnected happenstances would affect the various characters in ways that would allow for a rotation between their appearances. The film is listed as a comedy, but I would describe it more of as a subtlety humorous, slightly absurd, non-linear merry-go-round. There's really no character development, but I think the intent was not to allow the viewer to get too close to the characters, avoiding a sense of sadness towards those of whom the fates aren't so kind. Let's face it, other people's misfortunes can be funny, especially if you don't know them, and there's no serious injury. Why do we laugh when someone slips on a banana peel? Why is it the clip on America's Funniest Home Videos of the man getting hit in the groin that tends to elicit the most laughter? Because we're sick? No, because we're normal, and if it ain't happening to us, then it's pretty damn funny. The story tends to bounce between whimsy and pathos, depending on which character(s) we're watching, and while I thought the whimsical parts were great, but felt the latter was unnecessary. It's not that it didn't work or disrupted the flow, but I think the film could have done without it, and focused on one aspect rather than try to incorporate the two. I was really impressed with the way Manfredi was able to tie so many threads together, sometimes on the most minimal of circumstance, and maintain a uninterrupted flow, building to a pretty interesting conclusion. All in all this is a creative, off-beat, unusual film worth looking into if you can deal with a movie with no structuralized plot or purpose other than to entertain.
The wide screen picture (1:85:1) presented on this DVD looks clear and sharp, and the audio is quite good. Special features include filmographies of the more notable actors, the original theatrical trailer, and about four or five trailers for various other independent releases, along with a few weblinks. By the way, the title of my review is a line from the film and occurs whilst a husband is arguing with his wife, and in an effort to call her insensitive, he makes up his own word.
Jeffrey Leach | Omaha, NE USA | 01/19/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I remember reading years ago about what I thought was a novel idea for a film. The plan involved taking a rather mundane object--in this case a twenty dollar bill--and use it as a means to examine the lives and various situations of each person who came into contact with the money. I eventually saw the movie, appropriately entitled "Twenty Bucks," on cable a few years later. I liked the result, and apparently so did many other people as the idea has since been reconstructed in Paul Thomas Andersen's "Magnolia" and this little independent film, "Bug." I suspect there is a psychological reason films like these three are finding greater audiences: in a time when more and more people withdraw behind the walls of Fortress Internet, when more of us slowly withdraw from the surrounding world, people respond to films that show us all interconnected in insignificant ways. Fear of a world increasingly beyond our control and understanding drives us to withdraw, but just as big a fear exists when we find ourselves seemingly cutoff with only limited channels of communication tying us all together. "Bug" shows us we are never as cut of as we seem. I hate to fall back on the phrase "slice of life," but that term fits this movie to a T. A kid stepping on a bug and the subsequent intervention of an airplane mechanic sets the stage for a rapid series of unfolding events involving numerous people. The mechanic drives around the city trying to help people despite the rapidly accumulating bundle of parking tickets he receives for his trouble. A restaurant owned by a hypochondriac and his suffering Latino manager figures in as well, as does a young couple breaking up over the issue of children. A homeless man stumbles in and out of the proceedings, as does a married couple having trouble over the idea of home cooked meals and other marital issues. A man who works the desk at the local cable company reads a message in a fortune cookie and hits on the first woman he sees, a woman who has her own difficulties but wants to get free cable so she and her friends can watch a boxing match. Meanwhile, another family suffers a setback when the husband loses his job over an incident concerning important clients and a broken reservation at a fancy restaurant. All of these diverse plot threads flow together and apart in interesting ways, with everyone eventually moving towards a common destiny with the potential for grave disaster. I leave it to you to learn what fate awaits these characters.Sheesh, what a disaster it is attempting to summarize this film. A movie like "Bug" defies adroit synopsis because, just like life, the whole plot of the film changes frequently due to the most minor of circumstances. There is simply no way to adequately show how the movie changes tempo and scope over a record album, a visit from the health inspector, or a missed opportunity for a child to star in a ballet production. One thing that I should say about the film concerns the excellent acting. Wallace Gregory (John Carroll Lynch), the harried airplane mechanic with a genuine concern for the common man, is the most consistent character in the film. Lynch does a great job with the role, conveying the sense of total despair coupled with a burgeoning hope that life is not as bad as it seems. Other familiar faces, including Jamie Kennedy, Sarah Paulson, Ed Begley, Jr, and Brian Cox all turn up in roles both major and minor. It significantly helps the film to have a few recognizable mugs appear from time to time since many members of the cast are unknowns. Still, "Bug" works largely due to the success of every actor who appears in it.Just like life, "Bug" shows the best and worst of events. An attempted suicide is a serious matter, as is the pain of breaking up with someone you still love or losing your job and not being able to provide for your children. The best events are often the humorous ones, even if we do not laugh about them as they happen. Wallace Gregory's penchant for racking up parking tickets is funny, especially considering it is always the same meter maid writing the tickets. Nothing saves the mechanic from another ticket, not a dog dying in the street or a man about to dive from the top of an office building. The guy breaking up with his girlfriend works at a fortune cookie factory as one of the guys who types the cryptic paper fortunes. His anger over the deteriorating relationship leads him to pen a few hilariously nasty fortunes while at the same time starting yet another series of events into motion. Brian Cox, playing the owner of the Chinese restaurant, continually amuses with his shrieking paranoia over germs and diseases. Yes, "Bug" is a funny film even when it is deadly serious.We have all, at one time or another, considered the implications of our actions after the fact. I know I have, especially after a minor fender bender. I could have avoided the accident if I had only sat at that stop sign a second or two longer or taken a different route to work, I think to myself until realizing the sheer ridiculousness of such a thought. It is easy to grumble about bad decisions or rail against those events brought on by fate, but it is also important to remember that bad choices sometimes lead to positive experiences later on. "Bug" merely brings these thoughts to light in an accessible, easy to follow way. This movie deserves a wider audience."
The best independent film of the year.
Robert Allen | 06/14/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This quirky comedy is ingenious and hilarious... well worth it!"
Quirky and Entertaining
Robert Allen | Chicago, Illinois | 04/30/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I've always been intrigued by the notion of how life can change just by being someplace at the right or wrong time, or arriving at your planned destination moments earlier or later. "Bug" explores these issues in a quirky and very entertaining fashion, and in a much more original style than more conventional movies dealing with the subject, like "Sliding Doors." I especially enjoyed John Carroll Lynch's performance as a well-meaning guy who seems to have the world against him at times despite all of his good intentions. Michael Hitchcock, a great character actor best known for the Christopher Guest comedies, also delivers a comedically touching performance as a hot-tempered executive who loses his job due to a mixup in a restaurant reservation. Jamie Kennedy and Sarah Paulson are also very good, though Jamie's part is smaller than what seems to be promised on the DVD box cover. I found it interesting that the filmmakers, Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, were the writers on "Crazy/Beautiful," a terrific drama starring Kirsten Dunst that didn't get as much attention from the public as it deserved. I highly recommend anyone who hasn't seen it to check out that movie as well."