**½/**** Image A Sound B Extras A
starring Tom Green, Rip Torn, Marisa Coughlan, Eddie Kaye Thomas
screenplay by Tom Green & Derek Harvie
directed by Tom Green
by Walter Chaw Tom Green's Freddy Got Fingered is the most startling debut since Luis Buñuel's Un chien andalou, with which it has a few things in common: both are constructed with a wilful disdain towards narrative; both are aimed at the outer limits of shocking imagery; both display an open hostility for the cultural status quo; and both joke on their audience's entrenched preconceptions of film form. Even more admirably seditious, Freddy Got Fingered, unlike Un chien andalou, was actually backed and released by a major studio. (It's extremely instructive to read Roger Ebert's review of Un chien andalou as the definitive piece on Freddy Got Fingered, though I suspect Ebert would object to that notion.) The crucial of many differences between the two films is that Buñuel and Salvador Dali's experiment in inciting an audience was only seventeen minutes long while Freddy Got Fingered is an excruciating eighty-seven. That said, it is destined for instant cult status and eventual critical respect.
The best moment (or, I should say, the moment I most understood) of Freddy Got Fingered occurs near the end: a group of kids in a "home for sexually molested children" sits in a common area quietly watching The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. If the rest of the movie had been as subversive and unsettling as this, Freddy Got Fingered could have been more obviously something other than a naughty and overlong one-gimmick pony. As it is, there are snatches of brilliance embedded in the margins of what resolves itself as a disturbed twenty-something man working out issues using other people's money; Freddy Got Fingered is, like Green's short-lived Canadian cable access and MTV sketch shows, emotionally raw and unbearably autobiographical. At least that's what Green (a post-modern, somehow more irritating Andy Kaufman) would like for us to think. It's Green's victory when people are shocked by his shtick. Could he be indicting a nation dependent on easy entertainments and pop psychology? Could he be cunningly impeaching our anti-intellectualism and cowardice in regards to our collective choices of diversion? As perverse a suggestion as it seems, I would hazard that there is indeed a method to Green's madness.
Gord (Green) is an aspiring animator who has a contentious relationship with his redneck father (Rip Torn). He travels to Hollywood to pitch his cartoon ideas to a television producer (Anthony Michael Hall), fails, moves back into his parents' basement, accuses his father of "fingering" his twenty-five year-old brother Freddy (Eddie Kay Thomas), and delivers a child with his teeth. Along the way Gord manages to manually pleasure two large land mammals (one of which is not wife Drew Barrymore, although she cameos), dances around wearing a deer carcass, licks a compound fracture suffered by his best friend, and beats his paraplegic girlfriend's (Marisa Coughlan) legs with a bamboo pole because she asks him to.
That it's an endurance test is no question--that it's an endurance test with a dissident clarity of vision should raise a few. I can't say that I understand Freddy Got Fingered, and I can't say there was much of it that I would watch again even heavily-sedated, but I don't feel as though I can dismiss the film offhand. In a cinematic landscape where every other teensploitation or gross-out comedy seeks to out-atrocity the next, it says something that Freddy Got Fingered garnered something like universal outrage. The irony of the its eventual failure is that if I were to play along with Green's hypothetical mission to scandalize and sicken, then the movie has too much plot, too much character stability, too conventional a finale, and many of the sequences are just goofy (the sausage piano, and the backwards man) and not offensive. Ultimately, because the strongest parts of the film make me too nauseated to recommend it, Ebert said it best when he wrote of Un chien andalou:
"A movie like this is a tonic. It assaults old and unconscious habits of moviegoing. It is disturbing, frustrating, maddening. It seems without purpose (and yet how much purpose, really, is there in seeing most of the movies we attend?). There is wry humor in it, and a cheerful willingness to offend. . . And in a film that is alive and not mummified by convention, you never know what you might see when you look out the window."
Amen to that.
Fox's DVD presents Freddy Got Fingered in a nice, if unspectacular, 1.85:1, anamorphically-enhanced widescreen transfer. Colours are bright and well defined, there's good shadow detail, and blacks are admirably black. A relatively under-utilized Dolby Digital 5.1 track renders Green's bizarre dialogue (imagine Mamet Mametier) in crystalline digital clarity.
A feature-length commentary by Green is, at first listen, full of irritating patter that appears to disguise a peculiar self-consciousness. After the first ten minutes, however, Green finds a groove and manages to provide some interesting anecdotal information about the birth of some of his more twisted gadgets and inventions. (The most appreciated being the source of the buckskin business and its relationship to the Tauntaun gutting from The Empire Strikes Back.) Scene-specific commentary provided by Coughlan, Torn, and comedian Harland Williams reveals how frightened, humiliated, and stupid each is, respectively. A three-minute short called "The PG Version" is a reasonably funny idea carried off with a degree of polish that actually undermines the grungy sensibility of the film itself while a 24-minute MTV "Making of" featurette provides a few behind-the-scenes tensions created by Green's sociopathic inability to leave people alone.
Six deleted scenes (many of them shown during the credit sequence) with optional commentary point to a deliberateness in Green's editorial decisions. Each of the scenes, almost without exception, is either a conventional jape or a clear homage to another film (especially Apocalypse Now). It's clear that Green was attempting to avoid recognizable moments in Freddy Got Fingered, thereby robbing the audience of relief from the strangeness and the almost physical distastefulness of the film. Turning on the commentary track for the last of the omissions, "Reference to Boat Scene," provides access to an Easter Egg: a clip from the Canadian talk show "Open Mike with Mike Bullard" in which Green shows up for his interview with a fragrant dead raccoon that he attempts to shave.
Rounding out the disc: a theatrical trailer; four TV spots; cast and crew bios; a soundtrack spot; and a curious feature-length audio track that consists of audience noise from Freddy Got Fingered's adoring March 21, 2001 premiere. Originally published: November 14, 2001.