"Look, I'm saying that watching people fuck is the same as watching a normal movie. You just don't have to worry about the storyline and all that underlying stuff, you know? Like, the greater message of it all."
- Gary Busey's boy Jake as Rick in Fast Sofa
I was fully prepared to hate Fast Sofa. Few actors grate on my nerves in quite the same way as Jennifer Tilly and Shasta McNasty himself, Jake Busey, and the prospect of watching the two of them for 109 minutes wasn't outrageously appealing. The first few minutes consist of a series of porn clips with Ginger set to Warrant's "Cherry Pie", followed by Rick masturbating. "Sure," I thought, "I've made a few mistakes throughout the course of my life. I've written some unjustly negative reviews. I'm guilty of half-assed proofreading. But what...what could I have possibly done to deserve this?" A few more minutes in, though, and I was hooked. Fast Sofa isn't a wonderful movie, but it doesn't seem to aspire for greatness. As a quirky, darkly comedic road trip movie, Fast Sofa succeeds.
Jack Busey stars as Rick, a vulgar dude who indulges himself in drugs and sex, invariably unemployed and between apartments. While out drinking with his buddy Jack (Adam Goldberg), Rick spots his favorite porn star, Ginger Quail (Jennifer Tilly). Some disturbingly effective, forward lines later, Ginger shows Jack what it is she does best for what seems like an entire night. When Rick drunkenly stumbles back to his pad the following morning, he finds that his apartment has been ransacked and what's left of his prized records are strewn about. Rick turns to his girlfriend Tamara (Natasha Lyonne) for some much-needed support, though she's none too sympathetic, having been stranded at work the night before and learning of Rick's triple-X fling. Rick, of course, does what any rational person would; he collects his last month's rent and security deposit before heading out to Palm Springs to visit Ginger. While Jack and Tamara get a touch cozier back home, Rick runs into bird-crazed, virginal, cycloptic man-child Jules (Crispin Glover), who had recently been mugged and implores Rick to let him tag along for the trip. The madcap shenanigans don't stop there, of course. On the way, Rick takes a stab at sex with an underage bowling alley rat (Bijou Phillips), finds himself and Jules beaten mercilessly by her intensely jealous brother, and exacts revenge with a crossbow and a lighter. Jules is introduced to Twister and "Hustler", two pieces of Americana as frequently associated with our great nation as baseball and apple pie. Raptor robbery, gagged floggings, forceful off-screen shaving, and a high-speed introduction to driving on the freeway are just a few of the wacky misadventures our heroes undergo throughout the course of their journey.
I liked Fast Sofa. Perhaps I should be racked with guilt at that admission, but it's true. I might even get around to picking up Bruce Craven's novel at some point, which enjoyed cult success upon its release in 1993. Though it did take ten or fifteen minutes to grab my interest, Fast Sofa somehow managed to avoid losing it for the remainder of the film. It's quirky, funny, dark, and oddly sympathetic, four elements that are not easily balanced. Unlikable protagonists rarely strike a chord with me, especially those to which I cannot relate in any way, shape, or form, but dammit, I liked Jake Busey in this. He may be a self-serving, irresponsible sleaze (decide for yourself if I'm referring to Busey or his character), but he's able to carry the movie surprisingly well. Crispin Glover puts in a good performance as the sheltered, inexperienced Jules, though he has an ample amount of experience with these sorts of unusual roles.
Fast Sofa is not without its flaws, though. The runtime didn't need any padding, so the presence of Adam Goldberg and Natasha Lyonne is somewhat of a curiosity. Perhaps their characters are more integral to the novel, and whatever they may have contributed to the story was excised at some point in the editing process. Neither of them are of any significance. Around half-way in, after enjoying maybe a total of five or six minutes on-screen, Jack and Tamara are completely forgotten. There's not even the traditional "let's revisit the characters" montage in the final reel that I was expecting. Also, director/co-writer Salome Breziner falls victim to overusing certain gimmicky effects. There are an excessive number of split-screen effects and scenes where characters are encased in boxes, flying across the width of the frame. Next to nothing is resolved, and the ending comes rather abruptly. The final moments of Fast Sofa are out of place and unsatisfying, and I was hoping for something more substantial.
Lion's Gate and Studio Home Entertainment have, following a limited run on the festival circuit, given Fast Sofa a release on video and DVD, and I wouldn't be surprised if this film goes on to enjoy the same sort of cult status as the novel that inspired it.
Video: This DVD release of Fast Sofa is letterboxed to an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and, by and large, looks quite nice. It's generally crisp, detailed, and free of any distracting flaws. A few portions scattered throughout, though, are substantially grainier than the rest. Generally, these are relegated to the numerous split-screen effects, such as Tamara and Jack hanging about the Great Outdoors around the 25 minute mark. Perhaps the way these effects were assembled lead to that sort of disparity. Occasionally heavier grain will slink into other scenes, such as (again) Jack and Tamara chatting on a rooftop 38 minutes in. This is a rather colorful movie, and its hues tend to be bold and vibrant without any associated bleeding or the like. There are no major concerns, but Fast Sofa would've benefited from the additional resolution an anamorphic widescreen presentation would have offered.
Audio: The Internet Movie Database claims that Fast Sofa's theatrical mix was in mono. That seems rather unusual for such a recent production of its not-inconsiderable budget, though in any event, this DVD is presented in Dolby Stereo Surround. Despite not having any discrete surround channels at its disposal, the rears managed to get a fair amount of use, reinforcing key sound effects as well as providing ambiance and giving William Malpede's score an extra kick. Bass response is limited, even during scenes with the sort of low-frequency fare as a car wreck and an exploding vehicle. Dialogue remains clear and discernable for the length of the film. Average, or perhaps incrementally above.
Subtitles are provided in both English and Spanish. There are no alternate language tracks.
Supplements: Full-frame trailers for Fast Sofa, Rancid Aluminum, and Tape. There are 24 chapter stops, and an insert detailing each chapter is not included.
Conclusion: The title 'Fast Sofa' should be enough of an indication that this is a weird one. It's just strange enough that I think I might actually watch this DVD again at some point down the road to see if I can glean anything more from it, rather than having the disc simply collect dust on the shelf. I'd definitely recommend this DVD as a rental, but a sight-unseen purchase is a tough call to make.