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Movie Review: Flakes

Flakes (IFC, 2007)
Directed by Michael Lehmann
Written by Chris Poche and Karey Kirkpatrick

Michael Lehmann is one of the many “Could Of, Should Of, Would Of” directors of the past twenty years or so. He hit it big with the cultish dark comedy, Heathers in 1989. I’ve always found Heathers to be a tad overrated, and what I do like about it has more to do with Daniel Waters script than anything Lehmann added to it which includes awful performances from Christian Slater and Wynona Rider. It does have one of the greatest bits of dialogue ever though: “I love my dead, gay son!”

He followed up this interesting debut, however, with two critical and box office duds, Meet the Applegates and Hudson Hawk. After that he kind of drifted into obscurity. He would pop up on television every now and then like West Wing and Pasadena; he also directed a few little seen, and for good reason, comedies like The Truth About Cats and Dogs, My Giant, and 40 Days and 40 Nights.

Now Lehmann is stuck getting his funding from IFC with his new slacker comedy, Flakes; he’s obviously trying to capture some of that angst ridden Heathers vibe, but this time he doesn’t have Daniel Waters along for the ride, and it shows.

Flakes revolves around aspiring New Orleans musician, Neal Downs (Aaron Stanford from the X-Men films) and his job at the local Cereal Bar, Flakes. A Cereal Bar is apparently what it sounds like; they sell cereal of all types including rare, older items that they get from a local e-bay nut who sells them to Downs for a tiny profit. I realize un-opened cereal can last for awhile, but some of this cereal is from the 50’s and 60’s; I don’t think I would be brave enough to try it.

Neal is dating an artist who has legally changed her name to Miss Pussy (Zooey Deschanel) for no other reason than to make an unfunny joke later in the film when she gets a job at another Cereal Bar that opens up right across the street from the original one. A young entrepreneur (Robb Connor) sees a big profit with a Starbucks style makeover, and when Neal is not interested, he opens his own place much to Neal’s annoyance.

Neal is one of those typical slacker movie characters that refuse to give into the supposed “Man,” and do his own thing with his art. He’s apparently been working on his own CD for a few years when the movie begins, and refuses to even take off a week from his job to try and finish it because he’s worried that the owner (Christopher Lloyd, who I always think is dead for some reason) won’t be able to function without him there.

The script is loaded with monologues for Stanford to rattle on about the evil of franchises and the nastiness of bubblegum trite that would come out of him if he rushed his precious CD. Stanford is fine in the role, but the character is so unlikable that you really don’t give two shits about him one way or the other.

Lehmann, who spends so much time in this film complaining about stolen ideas (It even leads to an uneventful lawsuit being filed toward the end of the film) should really worry about Ben Stiller suing his ass off for ripping off Reality Bites. Of course, Stiller will probably never even know this movie exists.

This movie also displays one of my all-time pet peeves. Neal talks like he’s not about making money; he just does everything for the art. However, he has a really nice apartment that would cost anyone a pretty penny in downtown New Orleans, and even has a wad of cash hidden away that contains enough to pay a $300 an hour lawyer.

This film is an obvious outlet for Lehmann to display his annoyance for working within the studio system all these years. I have no issue with this, but it really annoys me when a director chooses to paint these grievances in such broad strokes; by the end you are screaming at the film: “I Fucking Get It Already!”

Lehmann does avoid some clichés, however. For instance, I was glad to see we didn’t get a big love triangle between Stanford, Deschanel, and Connor. But interesting nuances like that aren’t enough to save this puppy.

It’s just not funny, interesting, or even remotely involving as a story. As I said, Neal is about as annoying a lead character as I’ve seen this year in film, and that will pretty much kill your movie quicker than anything. If you just can’t get enough Lehmann, though, this film is playing limited right now, and if you have the On-Demand feature through your cable system you can see it on IFC for about $7. But the Doc is telling you, save your $7 and put it toward that CD you’ve never finished, or go buy a couple boxes of your favorite cereal; it will be more fulfilling than this garbage.


Sam Loomis

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