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CRISPY CLOVERS

30 March 2005

I hope you all had a lovely Easter celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ with lots of chocolate bunnies and eggs. Nothing like a good party to reminisce over the deeper meaning of Christianity, eh? I know I had a good time. I spent three-some days doing nothing but relaxedly playing World of Warcraft and getting plenty of sleep. This means that the coming week will be a breeze because I'm well rested and enjoyed some old-fashioned gaming. Excellent.

Last week I watched Willard, of which I already spoke last time. And the more I think back to that movie, the better it gets. Some movies do that. That they seem better in hindsight than they did when you watched them. Maybe it's because they make more sense once you've thought about them, or the end did something to make the whole experience turn upside down. Willard was no different.

Crispin Glover gives a great performance, in some ways recreating his role as the 'Thin Man' in the Charlie's Angels movie (even though they were both from 2003). Sporting an oldfashioned cane and an unapologetic dose of style and fighting skills, he already stole the movie for me (OK, admittedly it was a tie between him, Bill Murray and Tim Curry. Notice how none of the Angels appear in this list?). So I was more than pleased to see him capture that weirdness and visual style again and pour it out over a whole movie. Though the characters themselves couldn't be any different. The Thin Man was self-assured and very confident in his every move, whereas Willard is more like Marty McFly's dad in Back to the Future (an early role from Glover); cowardly and somewhat of a dullard.

Willard start out in style: with a stop-motion introduction with animated skeletal rats and haunting portraits. The first half hour of the movie is arguably its strongest. Very stylized, hinting towards the events but not yet too preoccupied with the drama to forlorn indulging into quirky forays into what makes Willard Stiles tick. He's an awkward young man with a sickly mother (who insists on calling him Clark, claiming it's the fault of his dorky name that he's become such an outcast) and a no-future job at an office. After he befriends a white rat from the cellar whom he christens Socrates, things change. All of a sudden, he is able to command an army of rats to take revenge on those that did him ill. What could be a straightforward revengemovie turns into a more Shakespearian drama instead, as there grows rivalry for leadership of the rats between Willard and the big brute Ben, who was ratleader first before Willard chose Socrates to be king. As I write this, only now does it all seem in the slightest a bit ridiculous, which testifies to how well this movie convinces of the gravity of the situation. Still, these rats do a better job at conveying this classic triangular struggle than most other movies featuring real humans.

If I could be so bold as to make a suggestion: if you like weird movies and you aren't scared of seeing one that is carried by an acquired taste like Crispin Glover, see Willard. It's not at all a horror-movie like some may claim, but rather a stylized, intimate drama about a man and a jittering army of bloodlusted rats who'll do everything he tells them.

Roderick.