Worth A Look: 38.75%
Just Average: 21.25%
Pretty Crappy: 7.5%
13 reviews, 82 user ratings
by Matt Mulcahey
Blow is a sprawling epic, canvassing almost three decades of the crumbling mirage that once was the American Dream, following the transformation of George Jung (Johny Depp) as he ascends from
Massachussets kid with a dream to millionaire drug smuggler.Although the films layout invites immediate comparisons to Boogie Nights (one of the best movies of the 90s) and Goodfellas (one of the best movies ever), to dismiss Blow as a mere copycat would be to slight the first outstanding film of the year.
"1/2 great film, 1/2 good movie"
Unlike the stylized Boogie Nights or the realistic period detail of Goodfellas, the 70s of Blow are reflected through the way pop-culture perceived the decade. Boogie Nights recreated its era through costume and period music, but the cinematography was
decidedly 90s. Blow recreates the era with visuals that look like they were shot in the 70s.
The cinematography is amazing, with washed out grays and greens combined with vibrant reds, yellows and organges. Blow is full of 70s devices such as freeze frame montages and random, shaky zooms. The same sort of goofy disco-era filmmaking lampooned in the Austin Powers films.
Despite a few devices that seem directly lifted from Goodfellas (Depp's monotone voiceover narration, the freeze frames, the constantly moving camera), director Ted Demme sets him film apart with this unique approach.
Also like Boogie Nights and Goodfellas, Blow begins as a symbolic summation of the American way of life and the changes through the decade. Just as The Godfather represents the changing of American values (Brando’s refusal to sell drugs while condoning gambling, prostitution and murder), Blow begins by showing the transition of 70s to 80s America through the world of George Jung.
The carefree excess of the 70s is captured perfectly, but, unlike Boogie Nights, Blow fails to bring this societal mirror into the 80s.
In the first half of Blow, director Ted Demme makes no judgements. He doesn't condemn Depp for his way of life, or glorify it.
But in the latter half of the movie Demme shifts focus and attempts to martyr Depp. Demme forces the viewer to form an emotional attachment through two scenes, one with his daughter one with his dying father (a wonderful Ray Liotta).
When the 80s arrive Demme also makes a decided turn in his visual style. Gone are the frenetic camera movements, the montage sequences, the still frames.
Instead, the 80s are shot in a more straightforward manner, standard desolves for scene transitions, non-period music, elegant sweeping camera movements.
If Demme had done the same for the 80s as he did for the 70s, show this downward spiral of greed, distrust and disloyalty by shooting it the way an 80s movie would've been shot, Blow might have elevated itself to the stature of American classic.
But instead Demme opts to try and salvage his character through obvious manipulation.
Depp's character illicits sympathy under the basic premise that he is a good guy. Yes he sells drugs, but he isn't greedyor violent. He's a loyal friend and he loves his daughter.
He's a much more sympathetic protaganist than either Ray Liotta in Goodfellas or Mark Whalberg in Boogie Nights. The difference is Scorses and Anderson allow the viewer to make their own judgements.Demme forces his hand at the end, demanding sympathy for a character who would've received it regarless. The result is half a great film, and half a very good film.
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originally posted: 04/10/01 15:12:24