Existentialism, Teen Angst, and the End of the World

Friday, October 15, 2010 7:10 PM By Simon

What do they have in common, my dears? Well, they're all tragic things, yes, but nobody wants to hear about them. Unless, of course, you smash them together in a huge wad of cinematic musing and lingering bikini shots.

What is the world's obsession with prodigal teens and their apocalyptic visions? Is it a Donnie Darko thing? It's probably a Donnie Darko thing.

Recently (five minutes ago) I watched a small film called One Day Like Rain.

It's about a teenage girl who, cursed with an apparent knowledge of the planet's destruction, decides to save it with a couple hobby store chemistry sets. Jesse Eisenberg is in it. He's only got a few scenes.

The movie seems to be having a conversation with itself, trying too hard to be a Richard Kelly movie. People declare "There's no going back" and "40". Out of nowhere, like they've been pondering a particularly baffling question and suddenly solved it, blurting it out victoriously.

This is the problem with these movies. They try to hard to be deep and reveltory, either in the Donnie Darko sense or the American Beauty sense. And they're not. More often then not, they have okay to bad acting (ahem), obscure and random events that ape the styles of Kelly, without understanding that they should have an overall arc to which everything falls into place. They may look lovely (nobody could claim the cinematography for Rain is incompetant), but they're emotionally and intellectually dead, lots of ideas never realized past the napkin they were scribbled on. And this annoys me.

Metaphors for coming of age aside, my people are rarely struck by doom-filled thoughts. We get all pissy and threaten to slit our wrists, but how many of us do? You hear a lot about it in the news, but compared to the hundreds of people per school, two or three offing themselves in paltry. We do not drive to watering holes to wax on and have psychological breakdowns from the overabundance of giant rabbits and prophetic wood-hermits.

This movie reminded me of Douglas Coupland's Girlfriend in a Coma for some reason. The themes are similar, and you get the feeling a whole ETE (as these movies shall now be known until I come up with something better) movie happened before it even began.

I don't know. I was going to write about more, but I'm drawing a blank. What do you like about these ETE movies? What are your favorites? Why do they piss you off? How could we come up with a one word description of this genre that's not lame?