THE STRAIGHT DOPE:
The overall structure of Four Letter Words is pretty simple. It starts late at night when the party is starting to wind down, and it continues until the last straggler leaves. But within this simple set-up it does a nice job of jumping from one story to another. Baker manages to edit together snippets of many different scenes in a way that feels organic instead of jumpy. There is a rhythm to the editing, which constantly switches from one set of characters to another, then another, and then back. Baker shows an over-reliance on jump-cuts but at least that technique helps keep individual scenes from bogging down. Usually the film has moved on to the next batch of characters before any one scene starts to feel too long. That may not sound like high-praise but this isn't one of those shooting-the-shit movies where every scene feels an hour long. It does develop some momentum and the funny moments come with just enough frequency to keep things interesting.
The dialog is pretty natural (obviously the product of real conversations and improvisation) and most of the cast is surprisingly good. Some stand-outs include Fred Berman as the host of the party, and Vincent Radwinsky and Matthew Dawson as some of the partygoers. The material is far from deep (even though I generally liked the film I'm still not quite sure why Baker felt the need to make it) but the cast makes up for that. Hopefully some of them will get more chances to develop their skills in other films.
Four Letter Words adds up to more than the sum of its parts. At first it feels like just another attempt by a young filmmaker to mimic Kevin Smith (which, as far as I'm concerned, is always a mistake) but ultimately it creates a host of true, sad, flawed characters and gives them a chance to voice their frustrations.
A behind the scenes segment called "Lame" is included. It's actually a well-made look into the process of making this sort of film. Audition, location scouting and rehearsal footage are included. Like the commentary, it gives a good sense of how this little film was put together. A good primer for kids interested in how to make an indie flick.
Two other short features are available: the self-explanatory "More puke for your dollar" and "More Gary for your dollar," the latter featuring "Gary" calling the film "bullshit" and offering some helpful suggestions on how to create an action-filled car chase with no training or safety measures. A strange, funny extra. A photo gallery is also included.