First Reformed, Why You Be So Sh*tty?


Man this movie was something else. I went to see it because while at a different movie, I saw a giant standing poster for it while in line for the ladies room and one of the quotes on the board was "the role Ethan Hawke was meant to play" or some shit like that. While watching this movie, that quote kept popping into my mind and I kept thinking, poor Ethan Hawke, you are so much better than this picture, it is a very sad thing that someone views this as your ultimate work. 

Other things that popped into my mind were WTF, what is happening right now, is that a glitch, is this the projector guy fucking with us, are you fucking kidding me, WTF, WTF, WTF. Admittedly, there were also things like, yes Ethan Hawke is a really good actor, I think I would enjoy living so humbly, especially inside such an old building with good classic bones, I also like sitting quietly alone in silence with just a journal and a pen [and whiskey], beautiful scenery, Amanda Seyfried is so pretty, etc. 

To give you some context to all of those thoughts, the movie is set in upstate New York at a small landmarked church where Ethan Hawke is the minister. He lives on the grounds in very austere and humble living quarters and has both a drinking problem and a crisis of faith. Amanda Seyfried is a parishioner and wife of a troubled man who has become consumed by his fears and concerns about the effects of climate change. He becomes a catalyst for nearly all of the conflict and action throughout the plot. [Spoiler alert] He kills himself because he's so distraught about what we humans are doing to our planet and Ethan Hawke and Amanda Seyfried find themselves leaning on each other in ways that wouldn't have happened if he hadn't.

So back to all of my WTF-related thoughts... The first instance of WTF came when Ethan is sitting with the husband to discuss his concerns (because Amanda is concerned about his concerns and also knocked up, she arranged the meeting); the two men are sitting across from each other and the husband begins sharing a series of horrifying details and statistics about climate change — a few minutes into the conversation, the frame of the scene changes. By that I mean, the entire space of screen taken up by the shot shrinks by maybe 20%? It's subtle enough that I really thought it was an accident caused by whatever human was running the film in the theater. But it happens again a couple minutes later, maybe even once more before the discussion is over. This all happens in say the first quarter of the movie, so realizing that it wasn't an accident and therefore intentional, gave the impression that ok, the director/cinematographer or whomever is going to be using such devices to tell the story. Uh, no. Nothing like that ever happens again! Which begs the question WHY THE FUCK DID YOU DO THAT WITH THE FRAME TO BEGIN WITH?? It literally had no impact other than to create confusion in the viewer as to if it was really happening and why. It was too subtle to really mean anything else and the fact that early on in the movie, such a device is used, never to appear again, really really adds to the "but why???" effect. You may be thinking, well maybe that was just one of the devices the director was using? Good point but nope, that was it. There was another instance toward the end where some batshit fantasy scene happens but that is not a device in the same sense and thus you are wrong and the director is an idiot and I wasted an hour and 53 minutes of my time hoping something else would happen to support that random framing choice.

Ok I feel bad about calling the director an idiot, he's done a lot of pretty good work actually, but just because someone has a history of good filmmaking under his belt doesn't mean bad choices should be forgiven or ignored! I mean, that weird framing thing could have been really powerful if employed with any consistency. Instead, it was as if he dipped his toe into the vat of interesting editing choices that have the potential to yield powerful results and was like, eh, that's enough. Any artist can make "interesting" or provocative choices, but the ones who really commit and see it through beyond the gimmick are the ones who make something great. This movie dabbled in multiple gimmicks but none of them felt especially meaningful because they never connected, not with each other, not with the content, and certainly not with me as a viewer.

And then the end, my God the end. It was so off the wall and abrupt that the entire audience just sat in their seats dumbfounded as the credits started rolling, wondering to themselves and even out loud what the hell just happened. I won't spoil the ending for you so that if you should decide to see this bomb you get the full experience. 

On a positive note, yes Ethan Hawke is a great actor, and he does a pretty good job here and ok it was also useful to get the horrifying info on the state of our planet in this current cycle of climate change, but my positive thoughts end there. See it out of curiosity sure, by now it should be available streaming so you won't have to feel bad about wasting the price of a movie ticket on this drivel. Watch it from the comfort of your couch where you can easily make an alternate choice once it goes off the rails.