September 6, 2014

The Dirties

Matt Johnson, 2013
High school outcasts Matt (Matt Johnson) and Owen (Owen Williams) work together on a film where they exact revenge on the bullies they call "The Dirties", who torment them on a regular basis.

The Dirties is a love letter to popular cinema almost immediately, as Matt and Owen throw around movie references. The young cinephiles continue to reference them as they work on their indie film for a school project, but it's really a movie they are making for themselves. Sort of an indulgent nod to everything they've loved on screen. They certainly don't take a whole lot seriously, as most of their jittery shots are them giggling mid-line and having to put their heads down as they surrender to laughter. This could easily go off the tracks and become a sloppy mess, but it somehow manages to harness that energy and keep you engaged. And while all the movie love is going on, there is an interesting satirical experiment being conducted on high school bullying and violence in the media's impact on American Culture. All of which is being done through the divisive found footage genre. But it's never done in a way where it feels like an after-school special or something made by someone who is out of touch with American youth. Matt and Owen are likable because there's a real authenticity to their characters. We all remember someone from high school that is sort of like them, or perhaps we were those guys. The types of people who didn't necessarily engage in a lot of extracurricular activities but instead spent a lot of time together playing video games or watching movies. This lifestyle decision unfortunately also makes them a target for bullies. But the film really nails that realistic complacency. Like they have ultimately decided to surrender to the abuse, assuming it will never go away. They decide to take their retribution to the screen, where movie-obsessed Matt begins to take it all a bit too seriously.

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