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Underrated Films presents: Nothing


Vincenzo Natali made a name for himself in 1997 with his cult classic Cube, about a group of strangers trapped inside a gigantic Rubik's cube maze. The strangers are locked in without an answer to their incarceration, and every attempt to escape lands them into lethal, booby trapped rooms. In what starts as a bizarre coincidence, every stranger possesses an expertise that might aid them find a potential exit. Cube is a well-crafted, riddle-laden story that tips it's hat to The Twilight Zone. Nothing, released in 2003, is Natali's entry into comedy that continues his fascination with the groundbreaking t.v series. However, Nothing is perhaps the dorkiest sci-fi film not named The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai. It 's like if Harry and Lloyd had stumbled on Rod Sterling's Samsonite case on their way to Colorado.

Nothing is a story about two lifelong friends, David(David Hewlett) and Andrew(Andrew Miller) who live, alongside their pet turtle, in an abandoned house in between Toronto's superhighways. Andrew is so afraid of the outside world it is absurd he makes his bones as a stay home travel agent. David is a misguided megalomaniac whose attempts at greatness are met with ridicule and contempt.

One day, David announces to Andrew that he is going to move out with his alleged girlfriend Sara(the stunning Marie-Josee Croze, who played the hit-woman in Munich). Filled with his inflated ego, David's optimism shatters as the day progresses, from an office prank that has his chair stuck on top of the ceiling. His day gets even worse when he is finds out that Sara used him to embezzle money from his company, making David the dumbest outlaw in Canada.

Andrew's day fares just as bad. Somehow, the harder he tries to avoid the world, the more it wants to mess with Andrew. He can't shake off a pesky girl scout that chooses the recluse as her good deed subject. She is a persistent little bugger that manages to push herself inside his house, provoking Andrew to push her away. Obviously, the annoying scout's mother calls the cops on poor Andrew not before lambasting the mole-like man as a perverse child abuser.

David, with the heat right on his grill, convinces Andrew to quickly sell the house and run away with the profits. But, like most of David's bad ideas, the delusional high amount of cash is met with an immediate eviction notice from an inspector. Cops, demolition crews, and what seems most of Toronto, gather outside to get the lovable losers out. Desperate, the scared buddies, in what appears to be in vain, hope that it would all go away. Somehow, the disruption of voices and cars are muted. Our heroes, incredulously, walk outside to a halogen, off white landscape.

Trying to seek food and rescue, David and Andrew hike the Real White Plains while wondering how could this have happen to them. But when an inadvertent desire to wish their hunger away, the guys figure out that nothing is the best thing that happened to them. Finally masters of their domain, David and Andrew spend days(like they can track that) playing video games and jamming to David's terrible drum solos. These guys are having as much fun as I did when I could roam around Toys 'R Us in 1986.

Unfortunately for David and Andrew, power bestowed on fools always have erratic results. As both men begin to understand their gift, all of their insecurities begin to unfold. Andrew withdraws his sheltered upbringing, making him more confident. David blocks out his shortcomings to were it doesn't matter that he is mediocre at his aspirations. Eliminating their drawbacks appears to change to men, still goofballs but now eager, especially Andrew, to focus on their friendship. Has David used shy Andrew as a tool to fuel his self-esteem?

Tensions escalated as their reasoning, or lack thereof, make them make pretty stupid things. Andrew fakes his death by painting himself white to get the truth out of David, while both conclude that he best way to end their dispute is to decide a victor in a video game resembling Tekken. The men, who are really children that never grew up, petulantly battle each other by misusing their ability to disappear all the things they desire. As things get out of hand, David and Andrew must try not to lose their heads in order to save themselves, and most importantly, rekindle their friendship.

So, does the movie's description sound more like a suspense than a comedy? It definitely does, but Natali manages to coat this precocious what if with Farrelly brothers brush strokes. Cube alums Hewlett, who played the aloof Worth, and Miller, who was the autistic genius, perform a slapstick variation of those characters with David and Andrew. Hewlett is relaxed as the wrongfully assured David, never short of making screwy, illogical argument(in the trailer, Andrew asks David if they are dead. David, who grabs the nervous Andrew to help him get a grip, comforts him by saying "we are not dead, we have cable").

Andrew Miller, who also wrote the screenplay with co-star Andrew Lowery(they go by the alias The Drews) focuses more on the physical humor, like bouncing around like a pogo stick while believing he had found a candybar while they were still hungry. When David slaps him, Andrew reacts like if little cartoon birds were flying around his head. Since Hewlett and Miller are alone for all but 10 minutes in the film, the fact that they have a collaborative working history shows as they read well off each other.

Natali also has a great talent in creating surreal environments that remain uniformed but never static. The complete whiteness of nothing is stable, but as David and Andrew explore it, the possibility of a horizon is attainable if only they where able to dig deeper. Like in Cube, where the set design of the cube's walls always appear to the different but are not, each bounce of the surface of nothing gives it a lively, unique quality.

The camerawork is superb: note the scene when Andrew starts erasing bad memories, a hypermoved lens glides around the house exposing all the malaise rooms of Andrew's Childhood. The movie also has several ingenious sequences, like the film's preface, that uses photoshop, animation, and nifty editing to tell the friend's origins. For a comedy, the film is executed with the energy of a high stakes thriller or drama.

Nothing is not for everybody. I remember playing the film one day when I worked in my video store and a woman, who was with her daughter looking for a movie for a school project, saw about five minutes and told me "that's a dumb movie". It only has a 6.4 popular rating on IMDB. But, as I mentioned before, those that found Dumb and Dumber funny should take a look at this film. Hewlett and Miller are not as talented as comedians as their famous compatriot Jim Carrey, nor is Nothing solely an attempt to invoke laughter.

In between all the jokes and looney tunes violence, the film is a sincere look at the power of friendship. David and Andrew, shunned by the dog eat dog interests of others, are purely innocent men who deserve the peace nothing offers; they just have to finally understand what they mean to each other. If you can see beyond the overwhelming whiteness, you will definitely find something in Nothing. - JR

P.S: Michael Andrews, who famously remade Tears For Fears' "Mad World" for Donnie Darko, wrote most of the film's music. The song in the ending credits titled "Everything" is a catchy, folksy sing along that will stick with you. Can somebody find this song on i-tunes, already!

Trailer can be seen HERE

Directed by: Vincenzo Natali
Starring: David Hewlett and Andrew Miller

Source of the Bitter: John Rojas

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