Scott Pilgrim, WTF!
Comic-turned-feature film is exciting pop-culture fun
As he showed in Shaun of the Dead and his buddy-cop riff Hot Fuzz, director Edgar Wright is a pop-culture stylist who exudes a palpable giddiness when approaching seemingly outré material. And Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a perfect fit.
The film is based on a series of graphic novels by Brian Lee O’Malley, and stars Michael Cera as 22-year-old Scott Pilgrim, a manqué indie rocker who’s still moping about being dumped a year after the fact by a girl who split him and Toronto to go on and make a name for herself in the music world. Burn.
But Pilgrim is kinda shallow, one of those self-absorbed dudes who swim along, leaving a wake of broken hearts without really clueing in to what they’re doing. Yeah, one of those guys. He gets by with dating (for appearances) the obligatory Asian girlfriend and crashes rent-free at his gay friend’s house. It’s not much of a world, but it seems to be enough.
This changes when New York ex-pat Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) rollerblades out of his dreams and into his life, melting snow—and his heart—in her own little wake. One problem: The girl has some serious baggage, in the form of seven evil exes whom Pilgrim will be called upon to defeat in order to qualify himself as up to snuff.
What follows is typical Wright, in this case an exercise in magic realism that approaches each conflict as though Pilgrim is leveling up through a classic fighting video game. It’s a delirious and very, very funny stew of pop-culture spices, a reference-a-second mash-up that hews heavily toward that video-game culture. Granted, I missed most of the era myself, but the 8-bit aspect of the narrative isn’t all that hard to follow for the layman.
It’s sure to be off-putting to anyone expecting just another teen comedy. If you bring in the baggage of expecting conventional logic or narrative abiding by mainstream cultural archetypes, then there might be some disconnect. Scott Pilgrim’s perception of the world is colored by Mortal Kombat, indie rock and manga, and you either roll with the internal logic of Wright’s fillum or you sit there going WTF?
WTF moments are part of the pleasure of the piece, though, as flying, ass-kicking nemeses are vanquished to disintegrate in a shower of coins at a crowded night club while none of the other patrons seem all that surprised. It also helps having a supporting cast of genuinely entertaining characters to fill out that world.
As with all of Wright’s films, there’s a palpable heart beneath all the pop-culture references, and a recurring motif of slackers wrenched from their metaphorical basements by unreal circumstance and thrust blinking into the blinding daylight of reality.