The Bye Bye Man
The Bye Bye Man is the kind of film that is so boring and bereft of anything of possible interest that it becomes infuriating.
Every now and then, one comes across an indie film that's so showily awful, so drenched in bathos and cliché, and yet features such a uniformly sharp cast that you have to wonder: "What is it with actors?" Or, if one already knows what it is with actors, "Did this material actually look good on paper?"
The heavy-sigh-inducing "Charlie Countryman" is just such a motion picture. It's a thoroughly queasy pastiche of magic-realism/coming-of-age/romantic-thriller/bloody-Chiclets nonsense (and when I say "nonsense" I am substituting a much stronger word). It starts on a note familiar to anyone familiar with Sundance Film Festival entries in the ten years that followed "Reservoir Dogs." A young man, his face beaten to a pulp, is hanging from a rope tied to his leg and attached to a crane hoist at the other end; he dangles above a body of water as men with guns observe him from dry land. We hear the report of a shot fired, and into the water he falls, and…
It's just a dream, or is it a portent? Out of the bathtub pops Charlie, coming to, face intact, roused by dad Vincent D'Onofrio to visit the hospital to see his mom, Melissa Leo, taken off life support. Charlie not only has vivid dreams, he seems to have a sixth sense, as dead mom then visits him in the hospital corridor to tell him to "Go to Bucharest." And yes, "are you sure she didn't mean Budapest?" does become a running "joke" in the movie. After a brief pause to bother an ex-girlfriend played by Aubrey Plaza, there's Charlie on a plane.
How he comes to meet non-manic somewhat-damaged pixie almost-literal Dream Girl Gabi is a scenario that would not be enhanced by synopsizing. But meet her he does. She's played by Evan Rachel Wood (who's fine, despite the fact that there are maybe a hundred actual Romanian actresses who would have been fine too), and she's all punky and dour of countenance, and she plays the cello. Charlie, of course, falls for her like several years' worth of output from a brick fantasy. Skeptical Gabi warns him off: "Perhaps you have some sort of fantasy about sad woman from distant land who plays the cello." Perhaps a smart producer might have informed writer Matt Drake and director Fredrik Bond that self-consciously pointing out the hoariest commonplaces in your dumb hipster romantic fantasy doesn't automatically absolve you from them.
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