‘I’ ON CULTURE
Almost all movies copy each other one way or another. We have superhero movies, horror movies, rom-coms, etc., and all steal bits from each other. The basic story engine is the same. But Free Guy, a new theatrical movie, breaks the mold. It has elements of a lot of different genres, but it happily goes its own, really good way.
Guy (Ryan Reynolds) is a bank teller who has the same day every day. He gets up, says hello to his goldfish, puts on a blue shirt and khaki pants, gets the same coffee from the coffee shop and walks to work with his best friend Buddy (Lil Rel Howery), a security guard at the city’s largest bank. And every day the bank is robbed. “Sunglass people” roam through the city, robbing and shooting people as much as they want. And it happens every day.
Then, one day while stretched out on the floor during a robbery, Guy sees Molotov Girl (Jodey Comer) and decides to break the mold. He grabs the gun from the robber and takes the sunglasses. Suddenly he sees so much more: more weapons, first aid boxes that cure all injuries, more signs listing points. He doesn’t understand it, but chases Molotov Girl and decides to impress her by being good. And he is.
That creates problems because Guy is actually an NPR (non-playable character) in a video game. He is a program set to do exactly the same thing. But it turns out Molotov Girl is actually the avatar for Millie, a computer whiz who built the artificial intelligence that is the basis of the game. And somehow, using Guy, it is making it clear that her original characters are growing and changing. And that is ruining the game for Antwan (Taika Waititi), the louse who stole the original game from Millie and her buddy Keys (Joe Keery), who still works for Antwan. Keys is ordered to get rid of Guy and can’t because he is not a signed-up player. So the game must be destroyed, but that would mean the end of everyone in the town. The plot goes on from there and makes a few really wild turns, most of them very amusing, but also occasionally very touching.
It brings up the whole notion of free will. The characters, once they learn they can change, want to change and want to grow. But the powers that be try to prevent it. That seems to reflect the divisions of our country and our world so well. People on one side can seemingly do nothing right and on the other nothing wrong. Just watch different news channels. We are all being programmed and, in times like these, really need to learn to think objectively. We, actual living beings, need to grow beyond the programming provided. What do you do if you’re a libertarian who hates mandates like masks and vaccinations but have a son or daughter who works in a hospital? What if you have grandchildren in school? On one hand you want freedom, and on the other you worry about safety. And the bozos on TV give slogans more often than useful information.
I liked this film. In some ways, it reminded me of old movies of the 1930s where niceness, real niceness, was considered a virtue. Our heroes were decent people who wanted good things for all. And in this film, we see a city populated by folks who want to live safely and happily. And for all! There are some wonderfully touching moments. For example, when the girl at the local coffee store suddenly realizes that she wants to make more than “coffee with cream and two sugars,” the only thing allowed. Or the whole town taking off from work to meet and discuss the issue, leaving the “sunglass people,” the subscribers to the violent video game, with nothing to do. Howery is great in his scenes with Reynolds, where he talks about taking chances, even when facing death. The cast is wonderful. Reynolds is the straight man and does it well. Comer is a real find. She manages to be both the violent Molotov Girl and the idealist Millie and really sparkles. I liked Keery as well, as the nerd who pined for Millie, who never noticed him.
This is a really good movie, one of the best I have seen in a while. It is in the theaters and worth the visit.