Editor’s Notes: See You Next Tuesday is making its Canadian premiere as part of the Refocus Film Series on Thurs., Aug. 29th, at 9pm.
In my quest for greater knowledge about the film I had just watched, I typed “See You Next Tuesday” into Google and, boy, was I enlightened. The phrase is a “backdoor acronym”, standing for C (see) U (You) and, well, you can figure out the rest. Apparently I was absent on the day when the older kids explained this phrase to us at recess (though thankfully I was all ears when the hilarity that is “icup” was demonstrated to/on a hapless classmate), but finding out in this context seems appropriate. Indeed, the title of this nasty little film literally spells out (well, acronyms out) its sensibilities: up front all indie pretension - it sounds like a Sundance romcom where the Manic Pixie Dream Girl insists on only meeting her love interest on the third day of the week - but underneath juvenile and unpleasant.
Tonally manic, thematically void, and deeply hostile to its characters, the film also has its bad points.
Imagine if Juno - impregnated by a mumblecore film of dubious parentage - gave birth in a darkened alley, with Ricky Gervais presiding as midwife. Now imagine what might “slither out from the afterbirth”, as Daniel Plainview would say, and you have a pretty good idea of what See You Next Tuesday is like. Tonally manic, thematically void, and deeply hostile to its characters, the film also has its bad points. I kid, but watching this movie left me very puzzled as to what exactly it wanted to say. The setup is pure lo-fi indie: Mona (Eleanore Pienta), an extremely pregnant woman, works a thankless job at a grocery store. Though the father is so far out of the picture he’s never even mentioned, Mona has a capital Q quirky family to lean on, namely her recovering drug addict mother May (Dana Eskelson) and her angry punk lesbian sister Jordan (Molly Plunk). Because she herself is so capital Q quirky, though, Mona has difficulty relating to others, whether her coworkers or customers or her alienated family.
So far so good. We expect ironic humor, social awkwardness, and bittersweet whimsy to ensue. But the film takes a hard left turn into much darker territory, becoming at points almost a verite examination of its clearly mentally ill central character and at others a punishingly unfunny dark comedy. Any of these elements taken separately could form the basis of a good film, but swirled together in arrhythmic patterns they leave the viewer disoriented and more than a little seasick (C-sick?). In particular scenes that hint at some real examination of this desperately lonely life inevitably end with Mona launching into a string of f-you’s and see you next Tuesdays, in ways that are framed to suggest comedy.
In theory I am perfectly alright with comedy that thrives on shocking and even disgusting the audience. I do, however, hold to the stringent requirement that the comedy in question, you know, actually be funny. See You Next Tuesday makes the classic Family Guy mistake of confusing mere presentation with comedy. Mona’s profanity and various tics appear and just sort of sit there, with no twist of context to make them funny. The film sets up scenes bursting with comic potential (annoying customer keeps trying to buy dog food with food stamps! Mona crashes a BoBo lesbian goodbye party!) and then drags them on and on in search of a punchline.
In theory I am perfectly alright with comedy that thrives on shocking and even disgusting the audience. I do, however, hold to the stringent requirement that the comedy in question, you know, actually be funny.
This failed comedy would not be so bad if the film underneath was not relentlessly mean spirited. There is a character, the roommate of May, whose sole function in the film is to come home from work and receive a wave of profane abuse from May and her daughters as soon as she retreats behind her bedroom door. No reason is given - she doesn’t see especially noxious - but she gets treated like a punching bag. The same can be said of most people Mona comes across, nor is she herself spared indignation. In a scene - again, played as “comedy” - Mona is unable to make it to the communal bathroom in her apartment complex, so she defecates onto the floor of her bedroom. Why does a scene featuring the number one guaranteed most hilarious object in the entire universe come across as hateful, flat, and dull?
In defiance of all reason, that scene does not mark the low point of See You Next Tuesday. That dubious honor is shared by two scenes equally tinged with creepy racial undertones. In the first Jordan seduces her girlfriend Sylve, who is black, by engaging in a scene of roleplaying with Jordan as Scarlett O’Hara and Sylve as Mammy. This is every bit as tasteful as it sounds. Later Jordan gets drunk at Sylve’s bar, badgers her for more drinks and, when Sylve gets annoyed, starts to call her the n-word (worse: “my” n-word). All this is scored to pulsing metal music which obscures most of Jordan’s words (but not that one). Okay, you’re right. This scene is the runaway winner in the race to the bottom. Using that word in any film context requires extreme skill and purpose; writer/director Drew Tobia (who, it should be noted, is white) does not show that skill here or in the rest of the movie. The movie’s not making any point about race - the only other nod in this direction involves some cashiers of the sassy black variety - so, what? To make the audience squirm in recognition of how off putting this whole family is? To give us the 3-D/Smellovision/Stereoscope experience, overwhelming us with the sight and stench of sadism?
There are many questions that linger in my brain as I reflect on See You Next Tuesday. Mostly though I just keep circling back to the big one: why? Why did the filmmakers feel the need to make this movie in this particular way? Was no one there to counsel them, to offer barriers between the film’s conception and its labor-intensive production? Did Mr. Tobia have no one to hold his hand as he strained through the process of the contractions, trimming the script here and there? What rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? I think Yeats just about sums it up, there, so I’ll just leave you with one last thought, from a poet no less renowned than the great Irishman. To wit, if someone ever tries to force me to watch See You Next Tuesday again, my feelings will only be summed up by the great Britney Spears: If You Seek Amy.
[notification type=”star”]18/100 ~ UNBEARABLE. We expect ironic humor, social awkwardness, and bittersweet whimsy to ensue. But the film takes a hard left turn into much darker territory, becoming at points almost a verite examination of its clearly mentally ill central character and at others a punishingly unfunny dark comedy. [/notification]