Review: Vijay and I (2013)

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Will Wilder (Moritz Bleibtreu) is an actor who stars in a television series for children, in which she plays a giant green rabbit who is very unlucky. When the day of his fortieth birthday (coincidentally Friday the thirteenth), no one seems to remember him, Will is nothing short of furious. To make matters worse, his car is stolen from him right under his nose. After a wild night with the only friend he has left, Rad (Danny Pudi) a restaurateur Indian, Will discovers that the world believes that he has died in a car accident. Actually it was just bad karma for the car thief. Will is faced with a choice: Tell everyone he’s still alive or play dead. So he decides to disguise himself as an Indian (Vijay) to go to his own funeral. When he realizes that his family, his own wife Julia (Patricia Arquette) prefer Vijay (a charming Indian banker or Will’s performance of a lifetime), the charade continues, until as  it’s inevitable, he is gradually exposed. 

Vijay and I is a romantic comedy and marks the fourth film by Sam Garbarski. The film is full of little references to the world of cinema, actors, directors and movies. The film itself is a kind of commentary on film and what it means to be an actor. The director is definitely a fan of Woody Allen (even mentioned in one scene), Billy Wilder (which also gives its name to the main character) and Wes Anderson (from which it borrows lots of ideas). There are also a bit of Freud and amateur psychoanalysis thrown in the mix, unfortunately not sufficiently developed or integrated organically within the story. The directors’ enthusiasm for film is palpable and contagious, but the script suffers from structural problems. The editing could have also been better. The film’s pacing is off sometimes, some scenes are almost boring, some are pretty much useless or with no payoff. After a while jokes become repetitive and phoned in and aside from an interesting premise (which gets tired pretty soon), there’s not much else to show.

The concept of the film was discussed by various sociologists (namely Erving Goffman), and that’s the idea that life itself is nothing but a big stage where, depending on the situation we take on different roles. The humor is definitely the strong point of the film, although it doesn’t always work and the gags are unevenly paced. From the animated opening sequence, à la Paperman, you get that it is a light-hearted, corny and definitely larger than life type of comedy. The characters are archetypes we’ve grown to know from Hollywood films, they’re a bit exaggerated and generic. The film is full of stereotypes and clichés both cultural and cinematic. The actors are all very good, I’d like to single out the pretty Cathrine Missal in particular, in the role of Lily Mae the teenage daughter of Will, because not many actresses that age are so believable and natural in their roles. All in all a recommended film, I’m glad I got to see, even if it does falls prey to the usual genre trappings.

Rating on First Viewing
(at the Locarno Film Festival)
6.5 out of 10

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One comment

  1. Pingback: 66th Locarno Film Festival: Recapitulation | black is white

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