“I’m a driver. I’m a winner. Things are gonna change, I can feel it.”
These words were made famous by the Beck song “Loser”. What many people don’t realize is that they were originally from a film directed by Beck’s friend and one-time band partner Steven Hanft. Beck’s breakout song was entirely influenced by Hanft’s film “Kill the Moonlight” which, like the song, chronicles the life and times of a lazy, disassociated loser.
Chance is an aspiring stock car racer who spends his time trying to raise money to fix up his car so that he can race in the stock car open. He works part time feeding fish at the local hatchery and takes on a number of odd jobs to get the 3000 dollars needed to get his car ready. This plot is more or less arbitrary. The main focus here is on the lifestyle and mind-frame of this guy. He seems to drift through his life accepting whatever is thrown his way. He could be cleaning up toxic waste, selling cocaine, or just fishing with his dad and he wouldn’t feel a bit different.
Some of the adventures that Chance embarks on here would be the central plot in some other film and a major event in someone else’s life but he doesn’t even take notice. When you’ve got nothing to lose consequences don’t really become an issue. This is the kind of film that could have defined a generation. Unfortunately for Hanft, Richard Linklater got there first with “Slacker”.
Several other factors were working against Hanft here as well. First off, “Kill the Moonlight” is strangely anachronistic. The movie, as evidenced by the date displayed on a security tape, takes place in 1994 and the attitude displayed is certainly that of the slacker generation but the visual style on display here is straight out of the late 70’s and early 80’s. Everything from the cars to the dress to the type of film used just reeks of b-grade material of that era. This would be fine if Hanft were going for a period piece but he clearly isn’t. Which is just as well since Linklater beat him to it with “Dazed and Confused”.
The other problems are purely technical. The acting is fairly unimpressive with just about everyone delivering a very monotonous performance which half the time manages to evoke the “whatever” vibe the film is going for but just as often proves distracting. Also, there is some really bad dubbing present here. Often times the actors lips are comically out of synch with the dialogue and there are times when it seems like everyone is talking in an echo chamber. One scene even has the film playing backwards on a loop while totally out of synch dialogue plays on.
All of this is unfortunate because buried underneath the odd artistic choices and technical mistakes is a real gem of a movie. The film’s deadpan humor almost always hits its mark and Chance really comes through as the figurehead of a generation of people. Here we have a man who is definitely going to make it one day and all he had to do is wait for good fortune to fall in his lap, because making an effort, like, sucks.