“Get ready to laugh more than three times, but less than 10,” comedian David Cross says in the pay-what-you-want intro to his directorial debut Hits, warning the audience that what they are about to see is a dark comedy and, as such, not a laugh riot. This is a humble opinion of the film. Dark as it is, there are plenty of opportunities for deep belly laughs.
The film, which Cross wrote and directed, follows a hapless dump worker Dave Stuben (Matt Walsh) and his daughter Katelyn (Meredith Hagner), who is determined to get on the singing competition “The Voice” and reap the benefits of fame that come with it. To her chagrin, as she struggles, those around her get “famous” out of their own follies.
Among these is Dave. When Dave’s irate complaints to his town council go viral, an uproar from the internet hipster crowd causes his situation to become a local phenomenon. Leading the pack of these righteous hipsters is Donovan (James Adomian), who rallies two members of his advocacy group “Think Tank” (Derek Waters and Wyatt Cenac) to raise a campaign around Dave’s stance.
Hits is a smart satire that frames the throwaway nature of fame today. The first act moves deftly from storyline to storyline, introducing a smattering of characters. It begins as a simple narrative about a naive teen trying to live out her dreams, a simple man wanting nothing more than to have his civil rights protected, and a couple trying to bring their young drug dealer under their wing. The narrative gets blown out of proportion in the second act in the best possible way. This all leads to an absurd, absolutely sudden explosion of a climax.
There are some narrative issues with Hits. Some cursory characters slip away without their established arcs given closure. Michael Cera plays a drug dealer to Donovan and his wife Maddy (Erinn Hayes). Baby-obsessed Maddy wants a child, despite Donovan’s unexplained dragging feet on the issue. As a result, she reaches out to Cera’s character as if he were her child. This happens in two scenes, and on top of that there are at least two scenes where Hayes’ character mentions her desire to be pregnant. This all takes place in the first act. Once Donovan leaves to help Dave with his fight against the local government, Cera’s and Hayes’ characters disappear from the film, leaving their dynamic unresolved.
On the flip side, those characters that did come full circle in the end did so in grand fashion. The sad, rapping Cory (Jake Cherry) who is madly in love with Katelyn, turns out to be surprisingly endearing. And, although her character remains largely static throughout the film, Katelyn is played wonderfully by Hagner. Adomian and Walsh also pull through with strong, albeit one-note, performances. Adomian is particularly laugh-inducing with his smarmy, self-righteous presona.
For a film debut from veteran comedian David Cross, Hits is a fairly strong satire. It does start to drag into a territory of redundant social commentary toward the end, but the climax scraps that for a much needed left turn that saves this film from being conventional.
My opinion of this film could be biased by my passionate love for good comedians. This film is stacked with some of the funniest names in the business, David Cross being chief among them. And this isn’t a straight comedy. You aren’t getting the Matt Walsh from Veep, or the Erinn Hayes from Children’s Hospital, or James Adomian doing one of his numerous characters. But it’s not bitingly dark, either. It is a strange grey area between the two that sometimes feels fabricated and strange. But I laughed. I enjoyed the performances. Cross wrote a great script and crafted a wonderful film around it. Sure it might just be his hate-speech to the Youtube generation, but it comes across as good film making, in my opinion.
Cross released this film through the peer-to-peer service BitTorrent under a pay-what-you-want model. This means that, ostensibly, you could watch this movie for free, legally. Hits is the first feature-length film to carry this model. I find this bit of trivia fascinating. But, more importantly, it means that you have a chance to see this movie if it’s not coming to your town–and for free, no less. The BitTorrent bundle of this film is set to be made available on Feb. 13, 2015.
As always, thanks for reading!
Have you seen Hits? if so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments!
–Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)