Review: Back in the Day (2014)

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Cast: Michael Rosenbaum, Morena Baccarin, Nick Swardson
Director: Michael Rosenbaum
Country: UK | USA
Genre: Comedy
Official Trailer: Here


Editor’s Note: Back in the Day opens in limited release on Friday January 17th, and is now available on VOD

It is much, much too early in the year for us to have already had a movie as meritless as Back in the Day. Theatre-goers will of course be aware of the long-standing studio tradition in January of stuffing multiplexes with the movies they know to be terrible, while audiences are still engaged with the Oscar crop. Trepidation is always advised. But here, in Back in the Day, we have a film to make most “January movies” look like masterpieces. In the tradition of the late great Roger Ebert, it is fair to say that this movie does not scrape the bottom of the barrel. For it, the bottom of the barrel is as a glass ceiling.

By the time the closing credits roll, it may be difficult to envision ever laughing again. The feeling, with time, will pass. The memories, as in the case of any significant trauma, will not.

back_in_the_day_2014_3It is written and directed by Michael Rosenbaum of Smallville fame, whose Rose and Bomb Productions boasts a name into which infinitely more thought ever went than this, his debut feature script. He plays a man, biologically if not behaviourally, who returns to his hometown for a high-school reunion when his moderate success as an actor in advertising has him feeling less than satisfied with life. The great achievement of the movie, by its conclusion, is to make us truly—truly—understand how that feels. By the time the closing credits roll, it may be difficult to envision ever laughing again. The feeling, with time, will pass. The memories, as in the case of any significant trauma, will not.

Raunchy comedy is one thing, and often a very amusing one; the particular brand of humour in which Back in the Day trades though, however much it might like to think so, is not raunch. Raunch is a style of vim as much of vulgarity, as though the lewd acts in which it delights of speaking might potentially be mounted with a degree of passion. It is an active humour, unlike the seedy lecherousness to be found here, the “comic” equivalent of a wolf whistle directed at a passing teenage girl. But even that is too much a compliment, for chances are a wolf whistle might manage at least to carry a tune. Rosenbaum’s film is a sultry series of fresh new lows, each orchestrated to make the previous one seem like a pinnacle of taste in retrospect.

Back in the Day boasts a humour that with the utmost grace might be termed mean-spirited. With the utmost honesty, it earns itself many labels: misogynist; homophobic; sleazy, slimy, and sordid; hateful and horrible and cynical and cruel and…

back_in_the_day_2014_4Taste is an important word, given how drastically it may differ: surely there are those, the cast among them, who must find at least some of this funny. If they do they might benefit from taking a moment to ask themselves why. In one moment ogling a breast-feeding mother, in another terming Hollywood a “pussy piñata”, in yet another recoiling at the very idea of being gay, in another still simply screaming “rape” as though the word and what it brings to mind were the height of hilarity, Back in the Day boasts a humour that with the utmost grace might be termed mean-spirited. With the utmost honesty, it earns itself many labels: misogynist; homophobic; sleazy, slimy, and sordid; hateful and horrible and cynical and cruel and…

If the highest compliment a movie might be paid is that it isn’t quite as racist as expected, there is something terribly wrong with it existing at all. Films that showcase such heinous people—whether in their characters or in what they reveal about their makers—and such stunning stupidity as to be consumed by the homonymity of “you’re in” and “urine” are bad enough. But movies that rejoice in such straight male revelry, happily othering all else and actively laughing at the difficulties such despicable mentality has made common, go beyond the mild crime of being bad entertainment. The one moment—the one single, solitary moment—in which this movie works is when a character’s wife, dressed in dominatrix gear, notices his friend standing behind her back. The horror and the shame and the sense of sheer self-loathing that spreads across her face—that, we can only assume, she did not need to act in order to produce—will not likely be topped as the most convincing movie moment of 2014.

[notification type=”star”]10/100 ~ UNBEARABLE. Back in the Day goes beyond the mild crime of being bad entertainment. [/notification]

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About Author

Ronan Doyle is an Irish freelance film critic, whose work has appeared on Indiewire, FilmLinc, Film Ireland, FRED Film Radio, and otherwhere. He recently contributed a chapter on Arab cinema to the book Celluloid Ceiling, and is currently entangled in an all-encompassing volume on the work of Woody Allen. When not watching movies, reading about movies, writing about movies, or thinking about movies, he can be found talking about movies on Twitter. He is fuelled by tea and has heard of sleep, but finds the idea frightfully silly.