Film Review: Mute

Overview:  A young man falls off a boat and hits his throat somehow.  He loses his voice and his parents don’t believe in modern surgery (Amish, I think they say) so he grows up to be Alex Skarsgaard but can’t speak.  He falls for a woman, she has secrets and disappears, he searches for her.

The other storyline, merging at the end, is of Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux as MASH Remake doctors from a failed pilot (or that’s what it feels like).  Both are american GIs, Theroux says ‘Babe’ a lot and is a pedophile.  Rudd has a daughter. AWKWARD.

The storylines merge.  Background of the film is some techno future dystopia.  We see the underbelly only though.

The Good:  Celebrity spotting.  Alex Skarsgaard.  Justin Theroux.   Dominic Monaghan in caked Kubuki makeup.  Paul Rudd.  That part is fun.

There are elements of his disability that are done really well, little moments that show how society alienates people with disabilities moreso than others.  Technology has evolved a lot, and is based on spoken word.  When our hero wants to order food (part of his attempt to find his girl, so it can deliver to her) he can’t because you have to speak the phone number.  There are those little moments where you see how everyday things we take for granted are hindrances to others.  The ending ruins a lot of the commentary, and I really wished they had pushed this more in the film, but it’s interesting.  How and for whom does technology evolve?  Who are we leaving  behind?  What new barriers are we creating when we say we are improving access for the masses?  Those questions are ready for exploration.

The Bad:  The rest of the film.  There is an interesting background that doesn’t matter.  The story could have taken place anywhere or at anytime, and if we have dystopian future with sex robots – I want it to matter.  The doctors are doing backyard surgeries for mafia or underground people, but there’s nothing novel.  Justin Theroux does some prosthetics replacements for kiddos, but it’s an aside.  It feels like a waste of technology, especially after a steady diet of Black Mirror and other shows where technology matters when introduced on the screen.  There is one sex robot and a robot stripper but that’s it.  It’s just not integrated.

When it comes to stories, they are disjointed and unfocused.  Or, in the case of the missing mystery girl story, too focused with nothing new.  It’s an age old noir tale – bartender and waitress fall in love, girl disappears, has a shady past, guy has to figure it out.  The twist of him not being able to speak is nothing new.  And he has laser focus trying to find her.  The other story, about Paul Rudd (Cactus Bill, I think his name was) trying to escape with his daughter – well, you don’t even find that part out until later on and most of the movie is spent on him dialoguing with his pedophilic buddy like they’re caught in a Wes Anderson movie, or would like to be, down to Theroux’s character (yes, I don’t remember anyone’s names because it was too bland) being a mimc of the Owen Wilson type character with shaggy short blond hair and lackadaisical speech patterns and a constant repetition of ‘Babe’

The two stories come together (It’s easy enough to figure out partway through, if not sooner, so won’t spoil it).  There’s a conclusion.  A forced surgery to give our hero a voice, which should be devastating but instead, by ‘fixing’ him, allows him to save someone.  .  which is what makes the movie more disturbing. I HATED that he was ‘fixed’ and then smiling at the end.  This idea that what one group defines as a disability must be fixed  to be part of society, or useful (throughout he is insulted by others for not speaking) is tiring.

The Female:  There are two.  One has a long name, and is the impetus for our mute hero to go on his journey.  There’s a daughter, Paul Rudd’s daughter, who he is supposedly trying to get out of the country.   So, in short, females are only there to provide motivations for our male characters and have no agency on their own.  They’re throw-a-ways, shown literally when the main catalyst female is found in a garbage bag (spoiler, I know).

There are attempts at queering up gender expectations a bit, but they fall flat or are portrayed for humor- such as as Dominic Monaghan’s character in Kabuki who likes being manhandled by Alex Skarsgaard’s character – it’s a cliche at best, can see mustering up energy to find it offensive, but really just comes off as a lazy throw-a-way.  He has sex robots staged on a bed- oooh, risque.  He likes the abuse of a tall swede- risque, trendy, whatever.  There is another character or two who come across as genderqueer, but there is no background or information on them.  They are friends of the female who is missing, one says they love her and have given her money but – meh.

 

 

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