A "Good" Screenplay? That's Subjective, Sir: 'The Mimic'
Sometimes, writers can fail and flail upwards.
Writers have it rough. Critics have it unusual. We like what we like, and that’s that.
Below is a review of madness, where what I should dislike, I kind of enjoyed. Slightly enjoyed, but still.
Let’s get to it
(apologies, but there’s no watchlist or links in this edition)
“It’s ok to borrow from each other, but what we must never do is borrow from outselves.” - The Other Side of the Wind
Within the first ten minutes of The Mimic, the smoggy smell of smug hit me hard. It’s a confusing picture, one that is more frustrating than entertaining, despite being about a subject that’s after my own heart: the working mind of a writer. That it is about something close to me grants the film some leeway, especially considering how smug we writers, indeed, can be. It’s not entertaining - it’s us.
The Mimic follows a writer known as The Narrator who, upon meeting a strange man known as The Kid, becomes obsessed with both the idea of sociopaths and with exposing this thirty-one-year-old “kid” as the blank slate he’s perceived as being. Oh, and he’s working on a screenplay that may or may not be this very movie, that’s being written in real-time, by himself and/or by outside forces.
Overly challenging wouldn’t begin to describe the complicated structure of this oddball comedy piece, but the words fit - even when its own words fail into a turgid mess of a flood of flippantness. Scenes come, stay too long, and leave as quickly as carelessly as the wind, possibly to soothe a much-needed gratification our filmmakers may or may not need. Starring Thomas Sadoski (formerly of The Newsroom) as The Narrator, The Mimic would be awful and snobbish if it weren’t so on point about the typecast of writers. Instead, it’s awfully snobbish. That’s different, and can be ok.
Is it ok? Sure.
The Narrator’s relationship with The Kid is made up of long back and forth dialogue contests, where The Kid will answer questions with questions, angering the hell out of his frustrated counterpart. This plot of “figuring out” The Kid is only matched by the plot of It’s Pat: The Movie, where a neighbor becomes obsessed with Pat’s ambiguous sexual identity. Here, The Narrator confronts this kid with consistently maddening observations that psychoanalyzes both of them.
To what end, and why should we care?
Maybe we don’t have to care. Maybe the ends are just the means. The Mimic reminds me of Anthony Hopkins’ directorial debut Slipstream - a movie that I love unconditionally - in that, according to Hopkins himself, it was meant to make people angry. It was meant to be a difficult endurance of a watch. This may not be the intention of The Mimic, but it’s the result for sure.
From bizarre fourth wall breaks to scenes within scenes to settings crashing into one another as if to mean something - something we the audience aren’t privy to - The Mimic is a hair away from being a wreck of confusion, but manages to thrive off of its novelty, its sideways handling of subject matter, and its cast being able to roll with everything without missing beats. It’s a feat inside a nesting doll of arrogance, with enough color to make it attractive.
Is this a “Snobs v Slobs” review? The Mimic doesn’t really have one particular crowd in mind, at least not by personality. It’s meant more for career choice or, rather, career fate. It’s for writers. We can read between its lines easily, but some of us will see and appreciate the craziness within the cockiness, and find some familiar solace in that and that alone. Barely, but it can be found.
We’re a type, eh?