Saturday, February 4, 2012

CHRONICLE Review: One Young Man's Despair is his Greatest Power

Ok so I just left the theater, and the one thing on my mind is how resonant CHRONICLE will be for many teen moviegoers. Let me explain.

CHRONICLE is a radical new take on the superhero genre, which adds great depth to the concept of what great power can do to an individual. This story is all about Andrew Detmer, a kid who's basically been handed a crap sandwich all his life. It's told through his eyes (or in this case his camera) and his profound despair is the driving force of the film.

From the start, I could tell that there was this malevolent darkness that was constantly at war within this young man. Dane DeHaan's performance is meticulously nuanced and emotionally gripping, as we see him struggle with his situation and the people around him. His father is an abusive alcoholic and his mother, the only person who shows him any real affection, is the only thing that keeps Andrew's darkness at bay. In a sense, she's his ray of hope, the only light in his world. And when she's finally taken away, there's nothing that can stop Andrew. One thing I hated in my theater showing was how the audience applauded his death. I view Andrew's story as incredibly tragic, and a statement of just how far one person can be pushed before they give in to their own darkness.

Alex Russell and Michael B. Jordan play Matt Garetty and Steve Montgomery, respectively, and add a sharp contrast to Andrew's introverted nature. Steve is the cookie-cutter "popular guy" who, through his shared experiences with Andrew, tries to help him loosen up. Matt is Andrew's cousin, a philosophizing good dude who nevertheless has to reel Andrew in from time to time. Both are social, fun-loving high school seniors enjoying the hell out of life, and throughout the film they try to get Andrew to do the same. Their performances, especially Russell's, add fun and sincerity to the movie, but in the end this is Andrew's story.

Andrew, trying to find a sense of reason to his life, begins documenting it. We see early on that not only is his home life a mess, but his ENTIRE life is. Picked on at school, scorned by girls, the only friend he seems to have is his cousin. Matt brings Andrew along to a rave, but after several incidents Andrew ends up outside crying. It's then that we meet Steve, who comes across as a grade A douche at first, wanting to use Andrew's camera to film this "thing" he and Matt have found. They come across a strange glowing crystal of unexplained origin, which gives them powers. At first they exhibit only telekinesis, which they use to play pranks on unsuspecting strangers to great comedic effect. But as their story progresses so do their abilities, especially Andrew's. While all have the abilities of superstrength and flight (which is very well executed with the "shaky-cam" technique), Andrew hones his "muscle" further than the others, finally having an outlet for his despair which, while not always apparent, is very pervasive throughout the entire film. And he soon is stronger than all of them.

Despite all this superhero stuff, the film actually delves into their high school life, including Andrew's brief taste of "normality" i.e. popularity, but quickly disintegrates when relations with a certain pink-haired girl goes awry. And it's at this point the darkness within Andrew erupts. Taking matters into his own hands, he confronts his father in a scene that had me on the edge of my seat. Without going into too much detail, the movie culminated in a battle between Matt and Andrew on the streets and in the skies of Seattle, and we see that Andrew's despair can cause catastrophic destruction, both within his soul and to the world around him.

In the end, this movie is a gripping treatise on the concept of despair and how it can tear apart everything one holds dear. The addition of superpowers, and the "found footage" approach to the story, makes this film by Josh Trank and Max Landis a thought provoking and gripping film about a young man who seemingly has nothing to console him and all the power in the world, yet in the end he is so blinded by his despair that he doesn't get to hear three words that would have prevented all of this:

"I love you."

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jeff - I really enjoyed your review. I was wondering if you would like to contribute a review of Chronicle to a site I'm starting? If interested I can tell you more - just email me at