Movie Review: 2002 Movie of the Year: In Our Garden
It was a tough call.
Would I choose the explosive, socially relevant Michael Moore documentary Bowling for Columbine?
Or the retro chic of Todd Haynes’ Far From Heaven?
Or the nail-biting drama of Spellbound, Jeffrey Blitz’s behind-the-scenes look at the 1999 National Spelling Bee.
I would have to go for the unredeemable pee-in-your-pants hilarity of Giuseppe Andrews‘ In Our Garden.
There’s something about In Our Garden that settles in under the skin and wraps around the brain. Think Luis Buñuel directing a David Mamet script based on letters to “Penthouse Forum.” It’s hotter than two rats fucking in a wool sock.
Actually, thank God there’s no actual sex in the movie. I don’t need to see an old woman wearing a plastic elf ear make love to an unkempt drunk who fishes for turds in his toilet with flaming marshmallows as bait.
So, is In Our Garden simply an exploitive jumble of juvenile pornography? Or is it truly a work of demented genius?
Obviously, I’m going for the latter.
Andrews has acted in some professional films and is most well known as starring in the KISS-based road movie Detroit Rock City with Edward Furlong. But for his own project, he’s gone way outside acceptable Hollywood behavior, casting his trailer park neighbors in a Dadaist deconstruction of romantic comedies. It’s the classic drunken-crack-addict-meets-plastic-elf-ear-wearing-girl-and-loses-her-to-bad-toupee-wearing-blowhard kind of story.
Structured as a “romantic novel” complete with chapter titles, In Our Garden tells the tragic story of Rick, a poor soul who’s hardly ever seen without a bottle wrapped in a brown paper bag.
He falls hard for Daisy. Luckily, even though she thinks he smells like “dead dog dick on rye,” she falls for him, too. Their romance consists of eating anchovy sushi and swapping outrageous stories. Daisy romances Rick with a tale of the ten years she lived with giant crabs given to her by a prom king, while he reminisces about his former girlfriend who enjoyed eating defiled navy bean soup.
Yet, Daisy’s temper drives her from Rick and into the arms of Bill, the crass father of her dead lover. The rejection sends Rick into a swirl of degenerate behavior: smoking crack, throwing water balloons at a naked old guy, sleeping in dryers and digging for onions with Santa.
If I were to level any criticism at In Our Garden, it’s that the last quarter of it can get a little ugly. The film is mostly good-natured fun, until the rape re-enactment scene with a mustard squeeze bottle. No, just as there’s no ball used in the volleyball scenes, there’s no woman involved in the rape re-enactment, either and the mustard is just used to simulate ejaculation. But there’s still a point where rape isn’t funny, even mentioned in passing.
The rest of the film seems immune to criticism. Either one is going to appreciate the low-rent filmmaking style — the extreme overexposure, the almost total reliance on close-ups, the jarring snap editing — or not. The film doesn’t let up for it’s entire 86 minutes and it’s Andrews’s total commitment to a completely outrageous style that I find so endearing. That, and the seriousness with which the amateur actors impart to their roles.
Gayle Wells as Daisy is a total treat. She’s plucky and heartfelt, even when the most foul-mouthed dialogue spews from her lips; dialogue so dirty I’m even too embarrassed to copy some out right here. All I can give is a taste. Some of the wilder names given to sexual organs and bodily fluids are: Cornish hen, deviled eggs, worn-out wigwam, coat rack, prairie dog, swatter and soup of the day. Which term applies to what organ, I’ll leave to the imagination of my readers.
So it is with tremendous glee to announce In Our Garden as “THE” film of 2002. I can’t think of a more original, mind-boggling, description-defying movie I’ve seen this year.
(Click here if you’re interested in reading my original review of this important film, which I first saw at the New York Underground Film Festival.)