‘Tape’ and the juvenile human male friendship

by George Watches Things

Today, I’m back. I’ll get to the 2009 stuff I left soon, but I’ve got a review/discussion to share with you first.

We’ve all had friends like the three characters in Tape. Especially us males.

They’re somewhat despicable, but have some perceived redeem-ability… until they go too far.

Vince (Ethan Hawke) and Jon (Robert Sean Leonard) are old best pals from high school. They’ve kept in touch, for the most part, but since their days in school, they’re taken two markedly different paths. Vince is a drug-dealing volunteer fire-fighter, and Jon is a filmmaker. It’s the eve of Jon’s first film’s debut at the Lansing Film Festival that they meet at Vince’s motel room in town.

Tape (2001), directed by Richard Linklater (most recently of Bernie), is based on a one-act play. This is, in fact, a one-act film. As a whole, the film is theatrical in nature, but the most glaring thing that’s a bit quirky about the film is the shooting style. Its subtle voyeurism takes some getting used to, and the back and forth conversation movements aren’t something that multiplex patrons (such as me) are exposed to often.

I had friends like Vince and Jon, who had a certain view of the male friendship. Had. Vince, especially, thinks it’s okay to violate trust and just generally be mean to his friends. This may be fine with people who can take it, but Jon doesn’t seem to be one of those people, so he just throws the hate (real or brotherly) back at Vince. I wonder how much these two best friends really love each other, and I’m sure they wonder (and therefore test) the same thing themselves.

It is an interesting film, but the conversations Vince, Jon, and Amy (Uma Thurman) have are as useless as the ones I’m sure they had in high school. In fact, they really haven’t changed since then at all and, unfortunately, that’s not a compelling enough idea to drive a film. It has some moments of insight on human nature and power (notice that someone is always controlling the conversation, usually causing another character to feel bad or scared about what will happen next), but it’s hard to enjoy a movie with such immature and, as I mentioned, despicable characters.