In 10 Words or Less
The loser you hope you aren't (but may just be)
Loves: Movies, good indie films
Dislikes: Feeling bad
Hates: Scotty Pelk, film geeks
When I first watched Napoleon Dynamite, I thought I could never meet a main character I could hate more than that moon-booted freak. Then I met Scotty Pelk. Played by Melik Malkasian with an effeminate nerdiness that puts Paul Pfeiffer to shame, Scotty is the film geek that could make even film-school students hate film.
As a reviewer here at DVDTalk, I have caught myself on more than one ocassion boring people with my advocacy of original aspect ratios or my interest in the films of Jacques Tati. But I'd like to think my love of film falls short of Scotty Pelk's. Then I'll find myself recommending a film to a stranger at Blockbuster, and realize, I may just be a Scotty Pelk.
Then again, I would have to kill myself if I was. After all, he gets himself fired from his job at a video store by annoying his co-workers and customers, can't relate to normal people, and is unable to hold a conversation for more than a minute without referencing either Godard or Kurosawa. His every interaction with women is an exercise in futility and embarrassment. And yet, there's a movie about him, and not me. How that works is something I can't quite comprehend. Perhaps it has something to do with me not being fictional.
The plot, which is extremely loose in construction, sees Scotty booted from his comfy film-focused nest, and forced to try something new. That's where Nico, a modern artist with an interest in films, comes in. A chance meeting on the bus results in obsession on Scotty's part, one that's spurred on by Nico's curiosity about this oddball. Though he's being strung along a bit, that he can't see what she's doing makes the whole situation much sadder. That, or his frequent sink-side masturbation sessions.
Though the job done by James Westby is technically quite good, with a good deal of polish for an independent film, the story meanders, doubling over similar ground at times, until it seems to see the finish line and sprints toward it, whether the change in pacing makes sense or not. The stretch run is such a bizarre switch from the rest of the film that it actually made me a bit angry, like I spent an hour watching one movie, only to have someone change the channel and throw the remote out the window. Though there may be something of a twist ending at work, it doesn't really make sense in connection with the rest of the film.
The other major problem is the relationship between Scotty and Nico, which is bizarre to say the least and a major portion of the film. The movie seems to want us to see Scotty as the biggest loser known to man, but this beautiful, interesting woman continues to talk to him. Though the situation follows the rules of rom-coms to the letter, this movie doesn't, making it a roadbump on the way to a cohesive story. A girl geek who might be too geeky for even him or a downward spiral into madness would have made a bit more sense. Even so, as Scotty, Malkasian creates a memorable character, though a one-dimensional one.
On a side note: the video store mainly rents VHS films, which really dates the movie. As a film geek, it's something that really stood out to me, and it likely will be noticeable to anyone reading this site.
Packed in a standard keepcase with a promotional insert, "Film Geek" is a one-disc affair, with a simple but smooth animated full-frame main menu that offers options to play the film, select scenes and view special features. There are no audio options and no subtitles or closed captioning. The scene selection menu is a text link of chapter names.
The full-frame video on this DVD is excellent, with nice vivid color and crisp detail. There's not a spot of dirt or damage to be found, and there are no obvious digital artifacts. For a low-budget film from a small studio, it's a pretty impressive presentation.
The audio is delivered in a Dolby Digital 2.0 track, which has no negative aspects that stand out. The dialogue and music enjoy a proper separation and both elements come across very cleanly. One wouldn't expect a dynamic presentation from a dialogue-heavy film like this and it doesn't disappoint.
The best extra included is a short film by Westby, The Auteur, which stars Malkasian as a film director recording an audio commentary. It's a cute piece, and one that should appeal to DVD fans. A pair of deleted scenes follow, both of which are extensions of scenes in the main film. They don't add much except for length, and were smartly cut.
"Behind the Magic" might be the most low-key featurette I've ever seen. Enthusiastic is not how I would describe the participants as they talk about the film's development, eventually losing momentum and just giving up. Knowing the creators have a sense of humor like this helps me like this film much more.
The film's theatrical trailer, a gallery of previews from First Run Features, and text screens of Film Notes and Cast and Crew Bios wrap things up.
The Bottom Line
Though Westby shows a deft hand in constructing this film, and Malkasian is good as the star of the show, the story just doesn't carry through to the final frame, resulting in an uneven movie. It's simply one of those situations where the whole is not equal to the sum of its parts. Despite that, film fans (or geeks) will find more to enjoy in this movie than your average filmgoer, and everyone else can have a cringe-worthy time watching Scotty suffer. The DVD looks and sounds quite good, and the extras are interesting, though brief. Readers of DVDTalk might have a good time watching this movie, and not just for the cameo by one of our reviewers. There's something about being able toempathize with a character, and then enjoy the schadenfreude when their life goes down the tubes.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.