As Bad Ideas opens, a guy, known as the Stranger (Ryan W. Martin), appears to be having a mental breakdown in a bathroom. Arguing with voices in his head and eventually vomiting up his intestines (and then re-consuming them), the Stranger has seen better days. When he finally gets out of the bathroom, things only get weirder as he interacts with a bluesy bathroom attendant (Scott Loeffler), chats with a sinister bartender (Nathan Perz) and seeks out a woman, or idea of a woman, who may or may not both be behind his current state and the answer to his salvation.
Bad Ideas is a challenging film to watch, to overstate the obvious. The narrative is complex and mysterious, and nothing seems to head in any direction that makes sense (and the film knows that, because it often questions itself via the characters’ own confusion). The result is a film that is tied into a giant knot of philosophical and metaphysical ideas and musings, playing out with little, if any, hand-holding. Some may find it brilliant, others may find it infuriating. I think they’re both right.
Honestly, this is one of those films where the Emperor could be naked, but I can’t help but shake the feeling that it is saying something. What that is, however, I can’t say. Often when I felt I had a grasp of what was going on, or at least started breaking characters into the lamest designations of “good guy/bad guy,” something would happen to put it all under question. The film could easily warrant more than one watch for those interested in teasing out more from the film, once the initial inclination to make sense of the narrative wears off.
That said, the film goes on for over two hours, so sometimes I wasn’t sure if I was having trouble following the story due to its complexity, or just its laborious nature. Because this film is a big whole pile of talking, and when things are getting cryptic and then wrapping up in even more obtuse conversation, it drains on one’s ability to care. I’m a patient man, but there were more than a few moments where I found myself thinking, “just get on with it… now what the f**k is that!?!”
Almost impenetrable narrative aside, the one element that increasingly impressed me (even when it felt over-utilized), was the visual aesthetic. The film is stylistically dominant, utilizing fades, overlays and other image composition and manipulation to create a consistently dreamscape-friendly environment. Well, perhaps nightmarish, with more than a few hints of astral plane thrown in for good measure.
In the end, Bad Ideas could be called Lots of Ideas, and it’d be accurate. Whether those ideas come together, or even make a little bit of sense, is open to debate for me. This is the type of film where I almost wish a study guide of the themes came along with it, so I could take another swing at it with more of a grasp of what it is trying to do. As it is, though, I’m willing to concede that there is something greater going on here, but I’ll equally admit that I didn’t quite get it as is.
This film was submitted for review through our Submission for Review system. If you have a film you’d like us to see, and we aren’t already looking into it on our own, you too can utilize this service.