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The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards Review

The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards is a 2017 drama about the difference between fantasy and reality, memory and history, and the joy and agony of the human condition.

The anthology film is a rare breed, one that has arguably found more footing in horror than anywhere else, though a few well-made dramas have earned critical acclaim. Breaking a film into disparate stories, loosely linked or not, can be risky, and in the wrong hands is apt to stumble. With that in mind, The Heyday of Insensitive Bastards might be excused if it doesn’t quite find its footing. The film is the work of graduate students in James Franco‘s filmmaking class at UCLA. A supremely fortunate group, they had the opportunity to make short films with some well-known actors, which makes this movie certainly unique if not engaging.

There are seven stories, all based on Robert Boswell‘s short-story collection of the same name, each independent of the other, though themes emerge. They are tragic of course, stories of parents and children, fantasies of better lives, and aspirations of things beyond reach. Franco himself stars in the first, and is quite good as a grown man coming to a police station for a very solemn task. It’s perhaps the darkest of the set and moves onto others, one about a boy who deals with bullies while his father faces a life changing dilemma, starring Matthew Modine. Others include a curious and affecting story about a maid (Kristin Wiig) who works for the rich and has a tendency to daydream; a relationship story of great weight with Natalie Portman; a group of teen boys telling made up stories of their first sexual encounters (à la poor Andy from The 40-Year-Old-Virgin); and a guy narrating his attempts to get to know a pretty girl he met at a party when things go very bad.

Most are set in the 80s and each are connected by grainy 8mm film footage and feature cameos and such by people like Jimmy KimmelTony CoxAmber TamblynKate MaraAbigail Spencer, Keir GilchristAhna O’Reilly and more. As is common in the genre, these are mostly slice of life with each setting up the twist and or conflict and then letting it be, the message that ‘this is life’ the most prominent. We’re meant, I think, to connect with these on some emotional level, as most tap into some familiar territory, aside perhaps from the last, with the well-cast Jacob Loeb embroiled in a weirdly convincing cover-up that is the one most divided from the pack. None really hit with terrific weight, the film purposefully somber and tragic, though that’s not to say there isn’t good work here, all clearly elevated by the performances.

This is essentially a collection of student films and as such, reflects just that, the writing and direction unrefined. It lacks a cohesiveness that could have bound them tighter and the stories don’t always go hand in hand with the weighty tone the music and pace seem to imply. However, there is promise here, and for fans of both the genre and Franco cinephiles, this will be a must.

The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards Review

Movie description: The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards is a 2017 drama about the difference between fantasy and reality, memory and history, and the joy and agony of the human condition.

Director(s): Mark Columbus, Lauren Hoekstra, , Sarah Kruchowski, , Ryan Moody, , Simon Savelyev, , Vanita Shastry, , Shadae Lamar Smith, , Jeremy David White, , Jonathan King

Actor(s): Rico Rodriguez, Matthew Modine, James Franco

Genre: Drama

  • Our Score
User Rating 1.5 (2 votes)
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