Office Christmas Party
Another reminder that allowing your cast to madly improvise instead of actually providing a coherent script with a scintilla of inherent logic often leads to…
Brian de Palma's "Greetings" is not, properly speaking, a feature film at all, but a string of episodes in the Laurel and Hardy tradition. Some work, some don't. Even the unsuccessful ones have a certain charm, a freshness and openness. What holds the film together is not its plot (there isn't one) but its attitude, its general instinct for what is funny in our society.
Attitudes and notions were all that mattered in the comedies of Laurel and Hardy or W. C. Fields. The other member of the Pantheon, Charlie Chaplin, got hooked on messages and story lines and significance, and is responsible for most of what subsequently went wrong with movie comedy. Pure comedy is necessarily unrelated to classical ideas about plot and message; the invention of motion pictures freed comedy at last from the necessity of getting characters on and off the stage.
The best comedians understood that they didn't have to make the slightest bit of sense (try to figure out the story line of Fields' "Never Give a Sucker an Even Break" sometime). But most contemporary comedies, alas, try to make as much sense as a thriller or a drama. They waste time holding things together. The best comedy of the last decade was Mel Brooks' "The Producers" (1968). De Palma is not a Brooks, not yet anyway, but he is one of the rare contemporary filmmakers who has an instinct for movie comedy.
In "Greetings," he gives us some characters who have no justification at all, except their existence, which we accept because we have to. There's the hero who's trying to avoid the draft, and his friends, and some other guys who are investigating the assassination of President Kennedy. And there's this guy who peddles dirty movies. And three girls who are computer dates. And somebody who says he's Lee Harvey Oswald's landlady's nephew and will be killed some day. And some other people.