“Dropping Out,” itself a product of a media-saturated generation, is about what life is like for people who are products of a media-saturated generation.
In examining the banality of existence for members of Generation X, Mark Osborne’s film presents an utterly original, often hilarious story that, while unusual, should appeal to a mass audience, too.
Emile Brockton (Kent Osborne, the director/writer’s brother) is a 26-year-old guy with nothing to live for. Unemployed, he watches TV constantly; when the cable goes out, he automatically reaches for an X-Acto Knife and slits his wrist. (He belongs to an easily bored generation, though, and he starts flipping through a magazine even as blood is spurting ridiculously from his arm.)
He’s rescued by a phone call offering him a job on the night shift at a local hotel. There he meets the rather disconnected Henry (David Koechner), and he confides in him his plan: He’s going to kill himself, this time for real, and videotape it. After the deed is done, he wants Henry to come by, pick up the tape, and mail it to a woman Emile once dated.
Henry’s amateur filmmaker friend Andrew (Vince Vieluf) gets involved, though, and soon Emile’s suicide becomes a full-blown documentary, complete with interviews of his associates, all of whom are asked to express what their sorrow will be like when Emile actually DOES kill himself, which is intended to be the last scene of the movie.
All of this commotion, presumably a prelude to a suicide, causes Emile to feel excited about life again. What do you do when your planned suicide becomes a media event before it even happens? The film-making process gives Emile a reason to live — but if he DOESN’T kill himself, there’s no point in making the “Death-U-Mentary,” which means things will go back to the way they were — which will make him suicidal again. It’s the ultimate post-modern Catch-22, and for all its darkness and morbidity (“Don’t you still want to kill yourself?” he’s asked; “Oh, yeah, totally,” is his casual reply), it’s a surprisingly thought-provoking notion.
But never mind that. This movie is funny. Emile’s fantasy sequences, in which he’s in the cheesy opening credits to some generic sitcom, are brilliant, dead-on parodies of the genre. The film’s quirky characters are played with zeal and unironic dedication, without all the winking self-awareness that you see too often in comedies these days. These actors never let on that they’re aware of the absurdity, and that just makes it funnier.
Unfortunately, when Emile announces his intention not to kill himself, thus bringing to a halt the film’s production, the movie we’re watching slows down, too. But aside from those several minutes of slowness, “Dropping Out” is a wonderfully creative film, simultaneously sunny and dark, and altogether enjoyable.
B+ (; )