2007 SXSW NARRATIVE COMPETITION FEATURE! Back in the ole salad days of my film reviewing, I derived a certain pleasure out of taking a film I disliked to task. I think it’s something all young writers go through, a kind of “announcing my presence and opinions with authority” kind of thing. Not to say I’ve come a long way or I’m any better a writer now then I was then (look at that sentence for proof!), it’s just that I don’t feel the need to attack a film or be a total a*****e in my review unless I’m really rubbed the wrong way. It still happens from time to time and it’s just happened with Adam Rapp’s boring, gloomy and redundant “Blackbird.”
Baylis (Sparks) is a New York junkie living in your a-typical New York junky flophouse. He shoots up then yells and screams then passes out or some such thing. Meanwhile in another part of town young Froggy (Jacobs) gets off the subway with nowhere to go. She’s taken in by white pimp drug dealer Pinchback (Hoch) and away we go into a movie about the irredeemable drug world and what a horrible affect it has on personalities, jobs and personal hygiene. As someone once said, “Drugs are bad, mm-kay?” But here’s the thing-we already know that. Once in a while a really great film about substance abusers comes along (“Half Nelson,” “Factotum,” “Leaving Las Vegas”) and kind of redefines the drunk druggy genre, but for the most part they’re just exercises in boredom much like “Blackbird.” Showing people shooting up and then screwing up doesn’t make a film edgy or realistic, it just makes it feel like every other addict movie.
While as you may have guessed, I didn’t like the film, there are two things I liked just enough to comment on. One was actress Gillian Jacobs who has an underlying sexuality to her muted role and the other was actor Paul Sparks. Sparks totally inhabits the role of Baylis and while I felt like the character was pretty standardized, Sparks has a vulnerability and likeability that kind of grabs you. Yet it’s the pointless dialogue and random events of the film that totally negate the few positives to be found here.
As I said, I don’t get off on bashing films any more and I’m almost certain director Rapp and his team didn’t set out to make a stinker. However, as a well known playwright and director of the much appreciated “Winter Passing,” I expected much more than what I got from Rapp and “Blackbird.”