The wasteland known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is neither democratic nor a republic of the people. The atrocities and crimes to humanity that are visited upon the sad and starving people of this land are anything but funny — and here’s where the “The Interview” performs most brilliantly — it doesn’t lose sight of this.
Much like Mel Brooks‘ 1968 comedy “The Producers,” where producer Max Bialystok and his accountant Leo Bloom create a fraudulent scheme to bilk money out of star-struck live theater investors by creating a musical about Adolf Hitler — Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen bring that premise to life. Real life. This is not a movie that parodies and pokes fun at a bygone regime. “The Interview” makes a bold and compelling argument that only art can make, and in this case, it’s you who are buying into the premise and investing your interest.
“The Interview’s” genius is not in the lampooning of the supreme leader of North Korea, but of the media in general. In “The Interview” — according to Dave Skylark who is part Harvey Levin and part Barbara Walters — the first rule of journalism is equated with the first rule of circuses and demolition derbies. That’s not just comedy, that’s social commentary.
North Korea and Kim Jong-un could just as well be Calabasas and Kim Kardashian. “The Interview” of Kim Jong-un that Dave Skylark, performed superbly by James Franco, is so intent on getting is played with the same intensity found in tabloid conference rooms when the rumor circulates that Beyonce’s water has broken. The only difference being is that the supreme leader of the DPRK considers himself the child of destiny, and Beyonce — well …you can fill in the blank. Both tails wag the dog, and Dave Skylark’s attraction to Un’s tail creates a premise that ushers in one of the greatest comedic performances, that of Randall Park as Kim Jong-un.
It’s hard not to like the character. Park plays Un as a charismatic bumbling emotional wreck. Lovable and relatable in ways that make you question your own values. Simmering underneath the oafish eagerness to be liked, you can almost see yourself hanging out with the tubby little despot. As I watched, it dawned on me why Dennis Rodman was so attracted to this guy. Park’s characterization embodied the qualities that get serial murderers life sentences and not the death penalty. Un’s back story as relayed to Skylark in the cockpit of a tank made you forget and forgive the heinous crimes that we know Un is guilty of — for a moment at least. The bonding between Skylark and Un leveraged ingenious dialogue via intense performances. What happened in that tank cockpit was a bonding not unlike Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Instead of skipping stones over the flat water banks of the Mississippi, Skylark and Un were firing high-priced ordinance at the unforgiving North Korean wasteland.
You are in that cockpit with them, and Park’s performance seduces you like Hitler seduced Austria. The art of deception is presented many times in the film, and when the viewer finally catches on, it’s a revelation.
No review of “The Interview” would be complete without addressing the Sony hack. I would not have seen this film had it not been for the hack. To me, the hack was as much a part of the movie as the involvement of the CIA was with the movie’s interview of Un. Going a bit deeper, I found an interesting metaphorical parallel in both: In “The Interview,” the CIA seeks to leverage Skylark’s interview with furthering their own agenda with North Korea. In real life, the Obama Administration leveraged the Sony hack to further their own agenda with North Korea. Is that life imitating art or vice versa?
Kim Jong-un remarked to Dave Skylark, “Do you think I’d tease you and not take you all the way?”
“The Interview” is not about the hype that will bring you to see it, it’s about how the art of the cinema, in the hands of masters like Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, can spark commentary. I could say that in this case the tail is wagging the dog — but following suit with Rogen’s humor, I’ll leave dogs out of any conversation about North Korea or their fabled cuisine.
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