When Should You Let Go Of How To Let Go Of The World And Love All The Things Climate Can't Change?
'Before you pass out trying to say the entire cutesy title in a single breath' is our recommendation.
High-Profile Docu Attempted: ...I have to type that foolishness again? You're the boss: How To Let Go Of The World And Love All The Things Climate Can't Change.
Subject: Climate change...I think. GasLand's Josh Fox completes his trilogy in what the press materials call "his deeply personal style," investigating global warming, "the greatest threat the world has ever known." Fox visits 12 countries on six continents and, feeling as though it's perhaps too late to stop or even slow climate change, switches tacks to ask, "'What is it that climate change can't destroy? What is so deep within us that no calamity can take it away?'" So I guess it's also about...peop...le?
How Far I Expected To Get: I went in neutrally as to how long I'd last, or how long the film would feel. The subject matter is grim and infuriating, and not the "inspiring call to action" kind of grim and infuriating, but rather the hopeless "let's just lie here and wait for the rising sea levels to drown us...which will not be very long from now" kind.
As well, I'd liked GasLand, but I can't say whether it worked in spite of the "precious, over-edited start" and "grating monotone VO" I wrote about in my review, or because of those things. Perhaps it's a bit of both, but as time goes on and having just watched the steady and elegantly assembled O.J.: Made In America, I have less and less patience with what I think of as the Spurlock school of docu construction: liiiiittle bit tricksy, liiiiittle bit cutesy, liiiiittle bit smug and directorsplainy. I liked Super Size Me, don't get me wrong; it's just awfully easy to stray over the line between "presenting information" and "condescending to a grown-up audience with Schoolhouse Rock-ish cartoons and hipster fonts." The Fiona Applean length of the title is not helping either, I have to say.
And, you know, I subscribe to The New Yorker; I read Elizabeth Kolbert's fine work on climate-based threats; I don't know whether a documentary this unfocused is going to tell me anything new.
35:04 (out of 127 minutes) (...yeah, seriously)
What Did It: Fox's VO winds up a hectically edited series of facts and figures about the melting ice cap and the butterfly effect we can expect (and have already witnessed) as a result of it with a melodramatically stilted "Overwhelmed. Can't think." He goes on to note that it's a great time to watch some cat videos, then cuts more dire predictions in among the clips of cats on Roombas and the like, before droning that maybe it's "just. too. late."
This is both where (I assume) the film pivots to explore what's still wonderful about our soon-to-be-drowned world, and where I could no longer tolerate the strained capering that began when the film did, with Fox dancing around to the Beatles. And intoning about the "rhythm" of nature. And entering his own shots of a peaceful lea to play the banjo. Then it's off to remind us of the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Sandy in the most overproduced manner possible: triple split-screens, tipped-camera effects, world music. Sixteen minutes in, Fox gives us a montage. Really, dude? And why leave in this footage of Fox and an interviewee getting kicked out of the Reagan Building's food court? Who cares?
I don't think this is a terrible movie, and I don't think Fox isn't sincere in his intentions; I think he feels strongly about the issue and wants to bring the facts to the public. But at one point, he VOs that, "as a journalist, you always have that decision to make" -- in this case, whether to interview a man widowed only days before by the rapid rise of Sandy floodwaters -- and he decides against it, which is fine, but because it's intrusive and cold-blooded, not because that's not where his story really is. There's a narrative immaturity to his work vis-a-vis not really understanding that climate change itself, and/or what gives us hope if it can't be reversed, is just way too big, that he needs to break off a more manageable piece, which GasLand did, and make the connections between striking visuals and putative subject more quickly, which neither of these films does.
In the end, it's a documentary about Fox's feelings about climate change, and I don't have two-plus hours for that.
Worth Taking Another Run At It? Not for me, no.