IN THE BEGINNING…there was a cockroach, twitching its antennae on a sidewalk in Los Angeles. THEN…there was a kid, donut in hand, who looked at the cockroach and suddenly decided that a cockroach innard painting would look good on the sidewalk and stomped on it. Next, there was Wallace (John Carroll Lynch) who runs over to the kid to question him as to what he did and tries to tell him that there was a life that he killed. A car horn honks and the kid goes away and Wallace is left there standing until he sees a meter maid (Megan Cavanaugh) ticketing his car. Welcome to “Bug”, a fascinating work from the screenwriters of “Crazy/Beautiful” and the story thinker-uppers (same guys) of “The Tuxedo”.
There are some movies that when you watch them, you can go off and do different things and come back, and you’ve really missed nothing. If you do that with “Bug”, you’ve missed a heck of a lot as each minute is filled to the brim with stories. Cyr (Brian Cox) runs a Chinese food/donut shop and he also happens to be an obsessive compulsive who sure as heck doesn’t like germs. Also running the shop is Sung (Alexis Cruz) who, as the film progresses, begins to get tired of his boss’s actions. Dwight (Jamie Kennedy) writes fortune cookie messages and his girlfriend Eileen (Sarah Paulson), has decided to end their relationship because of his constant harping on why they can’t have kids and perhaps there’s more to it than that. His hostile feelings reach into his job and his fortune cookie messages read something like, “Your girlfriend is lying to you.” This leads to Mitchell who approaches a cracked fortune cookie on the ground, thrown by Dwight’s boss at Dwight out of frustration, and reads the message: “You will meet the girl of your dreams.” In no time at all do we see oranges rolling by and Gwen (Alexandra Westcourt) running to get them. Mitchell thinks this is a sign, but Gwen doesn’t seem to be interested in him. There’s also Ernie (Chris Bauer) whose marriage to Olive (Christina Kirk) isn’t going well, but he seems to be causing all the problems in the marriage for unclear reasons. Johnston (Michael Hitchcock), after yelling at a maitre’d for not finding his reservation for a business dinner finds himself out of a job and is distressed over it. Not distressed as in going postal, but he’s certainly got many things to settle and financially, certain things have to go such as an upcoming trip to Hawaii, which actually plays a role toward the end of the film for many characters.
Not only are there the stories involving the main characters, but there are minor stories mixed in as well, such as one with a public cable access host (Darryl Theirse) reading from “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble” with an “esteemed” local acting instructor (Trudy Styler). That takes up a good few minutes, but there are also extremely tiny ones as well. Every single story is connected in some way and basically, the film is about our actions, no matter how big or small, and the consequences they have and it is certainly quite a trip.
There are many fine performances to be found here. Christopher Guest associate Michael Hitchcock has a juicy scene where he echoes what many customer service people would love to say from time to time when it comes to irate customers who seemingly have no life. It was a surprise to see Brian Cox in here, who handles the obsessive compulsiveness of Cyr very well and heads into surreal territory toward the end.
Parts of the film are surreal, including The Hand (Ed Begley, Jr.) that we see touching a cat and telling Wallace that it’s dead and also, while touching a rabid dog, tells him that the dog doesn’t have much time. Begley, Jr. appears later on in the flesh, but in a truly surprising capacity.
For all those Los Angelenos who reside in Silverlake, this film also seems to be a “shout-out” to you all as that is where everything is situated.
“Bug” proves that Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi should not get completely wrapped up in the biz of Hollywood, as they have an imagination that can last them numerous films.
However it may be a while as their next project, a live-action adaptation of MTV’s “Aeon Flux” gets ready to face the cameras with “Girlfight” director Karyn Kusama calling the shots. Hopefully they will find their way behind the camera again after that.