“Chevalier…”

Posted by · 11:38 am · February 15th, 2010

Jemaine Clement in Gentlemen BroncosThe film is history across the pond, but having just seen Jared Hess’s “Gentlemen Broncos” in the Generation strand of the Berlinale, I feel obliged to briefly counter the thoroughly undeserved critical and commercial kicking the film received back in fall 2009.

Because I’m astonished to find Hess’s creatively chaotic stew of literature, movies-within-movies and vintage power balladry the most sweet-natured and most consistently hilarious comedy of last year.

I was never a “Napoleon Dynamite” disciple. And in light of reviews even harsher than those for the dire “Nacho Libre,” it’s fair to say I wasn’t looking forward to Hess’s latest. Indeed, I wasn’t planning on seeing at all; I only ducked in to seek refuge from the embarrassing Competition entry I’d walked out of next door. (More on that later.)

So I can barely express my surprise upon discovering an imperfect, but warmly nutty and curiously moral, film, accented by delightful design work, inspired soundtrack choices (Zager and Evans’s “In the Year 2525” is going to be on loop in my head for approximately a week) and a pitch-perfect ensemble — with Jemaine Clement’s truly ingenious performance as preening (and deeply untalented) sci-fi author Dr. Ronald Chevalier the pick of the litter.

It’s a performance of gleefully precise eccentricity, both in physicality and phrasing — Tim Robey and I are still trying to figure out from which 1950s British matinee idol he borrowed Chevalier’s fruity drawl. (It’s not James Mason, but it’s close; answers on a postcard, please.) The memory of his phone greeting alone (just his surname, every syllable drawn out and lasciviously fondled) is going to provide me with endless cheer on dreary days, I’m sure.

In my crazy perfect world, he’s a handy Best Supporting Actor runner-up to Christoph Waltz (and given that I put Waltz in lead on my personal ballot, I guess the hypthetical Oscar goes to Jemaine Clement). So good on the Independent Spirit Awards for recognizing him where no one else would. I’ll be rooting for him on March 5.

Sorry, just had to get that out of my system. Carry on.




→ 11 Comments Tags: , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

11 responses so far

  • 1 2-15-2010 at 1:05 pm

    Al said...

    Thank you. Finally a good defense of a film so deserving of praise.

  • 2 2-15-2010 at 1:27 pm

    Daniel said...

    Yes! I didn’t love the film as a whole, but Clement was FANTASTIC in this :DD

  • 3 2-15-2010 at 2:35 pm

    Xander said...

    I also loved this movie and the soundtrack and the art direction. The trailer ruined it by showing every surprise and pretty much all plot points except for the ending. I saw it knowing nothing about the movie except that it was Jared Hess and was pleasantly surprised.

  • 4 2-15-2010 at 3:12 pm

    AmericanRequiem said...

    flight of the conchords alone should get him attention

  • 5 2-15-2010 at 3:49 pm

    J for Jake said...

    Chevalier’s voice was a mix of Orson Welles and James Mason, and that’s probably the only amusing element on this movie.

  • 6 2-15-2010 at 6:33 pm

    Rob said...

    Guy, seriously? I frequently champion films that are loathed widespread or others dismiss as dumb (“Pootie Tang” anyone?), but I really didn’t think this one would have any advocates. Some moments, but overall, it’s just dreadful.

    But yes, Clement is hilarious in it.

  • 7 2-15-2010 at 8:02 pm

    Hardy said...

    Yeah, I just can’t say much positive things about it, but to put it shortly, it’s horrible.

  • 8 2-15-2010 at 10:34 pm

    Al said...

    #6, Pootie Tang is the better film? I’m an apologist of that movie to an extent, but those sentiments are a bit of a tough sell.

  • 9 2-16-2010 at 12:36 am

    Rob said...

    What sentiments are a tough sell, Al?

    I didn’t say “Pootie Tang” was a great film — I just think it’s funny, and it’s certainly better than “Gentlemen Broncos.”

  • 10 2-16-2010 at 1:07 am

    Chad Hartigan said...

    Pootie Tang IS a great film

  • 11 2-16-2010 at 11:20 am

    Al said...

    Rob,
    Saying Pootie Tang was the better film was the tough sell. Again, I am an apologist (for lack of a better word) of Pootie Tang, so I have no problem with it, Im just saying, personally, Id favor Broncos.