Filmmaker Nicholas P. Richards’s Normal is appropriately anything but normal. An indie comedy with a little sci-fi thrown in for good measure, Normal brings up favorable comparisons to Alex Cox’s Repo Man, though I do think the latter made more sense to me.
Phin (Geno Rathbone) is down on his luck. After a rare moment of generosity causes him to lend his car to a stranger, he finds himself in debt to some criminals. Turns out said stranger owed them money, and when Phin goes to collect his car, said criminals put Phin on the hook for his “friend’s” debt.
In the need of cash to get his car back (and to a lesser extent, save the life of the guy who borrowed it), Phin first takes a job as a gorilla mascot for a used car dealership before being offered a different gig delivering a package to the middle of a cornfield. Nothing is that simple, however, and Phin finds himself stuck in the gorilla suit, running from the law and maybe even doing a bit of time travel while he’s at it.
Normal is an oddity, and it is definitely the type of film that excels in the realm of cult independent cinema. Phin is just one of those characters that s**t always seems to happen to, and his demeanor is so relaxed in the face of insanity that he just rolls with it. Maybe because he’s never totally put off by what is going on, it’s hard for the audience to get too critical too.
That said, it doesn’t mean that, at a certain point in the film, I knew what was going on. Once Phin delivers the package, things go from just odd to “waitaminute… wha?” and I’m not entirely sure the film ever explains itself enough for me to get over to “Ohhhh… got it.” Still, that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy myself regardless.
This film has a very unique flavor to it, and I don’t think it’s for everybody, but it more than worked for me. Sure, the more sci-fi elements left me confused, but if you just flow with it, like Phin does, it’s hard not to be more than a little entertained by it all.
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