> Interview: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong
Director Edgar Wright sets the tone for Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, his adaptation of Bryan Lee O'Malley's cult comic, right off the bat with an 8-bit version of the Universal logo and fanfare. From there on out it's a hyper-kinetic, visually explosive ride through the world of comic books and video games with strong echoes of John Hughesian relationship angst. It's a heady pop cultural soup - aimed squarely at a generation well-versed in all things geek - and Wright is the head chef frantically stirring the assorted ingredients.
The film rests on the shoulders of Michael Cera's eponymous bass player, his quest to find stardom with indie band Sex Bob-omb and to win the heart of the girl of his dreams, the fuchsia-haired Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). There are obstacles in his way, of course, in the form of his clingy high school girlfriend Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) and Ramona's seven evil exes. It's a movie about ordinary people working through life's little problems in extraordinary circumstances. That is, Scott's confrontations take the form of epic Street Fighter-style punch 'em up battles. Pilgrim's approach to matters of the heart will strike a deep chord with the teen cinemagoer - sometimes when love takes a hold it can feel so important that it's worth fighting for.
Visually this is the most post-produced romantic comedy ever made. Split-screens evoke O'Malley's comic panels, '80s arcade graphics and noises are weaved in and text and graphics are layered up on screen as Wright packs dense detail into the sub-two-hour running time. Look past the fizzing aesthetic, though, and there's stellar character work and performances all around. It's hard to pick a scene-stealer because there are several. Chris Evans plays the movie star ex who lets his body doubles do wide shots while he gets "blazed in his winne"; Brandon Routh, escaping from an acting Fortress of Solitude, raises laughs as blond bass player Todd Ingram; while Jason Schwartzman is smarmy and sinister as the final boyfriend Scott must defeat, Gideon Graves.
Wright expertly keeps balance between the Scott/Ramona relationship and the surreal spectacle. Cera harnesses his deer-in-the-headlights-shtick to a character who's selfish and not always likeable. He is pushing out of his comfort zone. What the film ultimately boils down to, and this is underlined by Ramona later on, is overcoming any perceived baggage, discovering self-worth and accepting who you love for who they are. For Scott and Ramona, it's as much about getting over their own problems as it is the ones they have with each other.
Compressing a six-book comic story into a feature presents its own problems. Kieran Culkin might be on top wise-cracking form as Scott's gay roommate (and platonic bed partner) Wallace Wells, but little sister Stacey (Anna Kendrick) is a nominal presence and the Katayanagi twins hardly register. However, the musical contributions from Nigel Godrich (a dreamy, evocative score), Broken Social Scene (Crash And The Boys), Beck (Sex Bob-omb) and Metric (Clash At Demonhead) bring life to the comic's imagined soundscape. The real star of the show is Wright, who makes an effortless transition from ambitious Brit genre helmer to blockbuster auteur. His experimentation with form and style harkens back to sitcom Spaced - and his Charlotte Hatherley music video 'Bastardo' - so it's really not that much of a surprise to see him playing so confidently in the Hollywood big leagues.
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