The Brown Bunny (2003)
Directed by Vincent Gallo

Artistic & Entertainment Value

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Bud Clay (Vincent Gallo), a depressed motorcycle racer, sets off on a cross-country journey in his van after having lost a race in New Hampshire. Along the way, he picks up and then leaves a naïve store clerk named Violet, stops off to visit the family who lived next to him while he was a child, encounters Lilly (Cheryl Tiegs), a sad woman sitting at a rest stop, with whom he makes out, and buys lunch for Rose, a young prostitute, whom he quickly turns out of his van. Eventually, upon arriving in Los Angeles, he meets up with his former girlfriend, Daisy (Chloë Sevigny), and reveals the cause of his sorrows.

Vincent Gallo's The Brown Bunny is among the most tedious and pretentious films I have ever had the misfortune to encounter.

I cannot begin to express how dull the movie is. The bulk of The Brown Bunny consists of an interminable series of static shots of the various roads along which the protagonist travels. Whether these vistas are shown through the bug spattered windshield of Bud's van or are obscured either by sheets of rain, that transform the images on the movie screen into a shapeless blur, or by the darkness of night, that allows only headlights and the odd sign to be seen, they are, without exception, mind-numbingly soporific. Admittedly, however, Gallo does enliven such drawn out, tiresome sequences by interspersing them with shots of some part of his head, which, when not revealing only his ear or the back of his scalp, permit the viewer to see the actor grimacing or staring blankly ahead.

The movie really is consistently atrocious visually and includes almost nothing that is not incompetently done. What is more, the cinematography is bad not only because of Gallo's preference for shaky, jumpy, unfocused, and poorly framed shots, but also because the director apparently thinks that the use of such shots makes a film more realistic and, hence, more affecting. These shots, consequently, are simultaneously ugly to look at and lend the movie an overblown, juvenile superficiality.

Such qualities, regrettably, are not ameliorated by The Brown Bunny's awkward, often inane dialogue, which gives the impression that the protagonist is intended to be mentally defective, and its clumsy narrative, which has all the subtlety of the work of a twelve year old. Because of such shortcomings, it is extremely unlikely that the viewer will be able to engage with Bud at any point during the character's wanderings across America. Although the moviegoer is shown that the protagonist desires to form attachments with various women, and that he is unable to do so, abandoning each woman he encounters soon after meeting her, this fault is presented in such a ham-handed way that it seems wholly contrived. To make things worse, when the director does reveal the reason for the character's sorrow at the film's conclusion, he does so in what is surely the movie's most unbelievably ridiculous scene. Instead of being touched, the viewer, upon seeing this truly awful moment, will probably just laugh.

I should at this point admit that the comments made above may be based on a misunderstanding of The Brown Bunny. While watching the film, it occurred to me that I was, perhaps, wrong in looking at it as an attempted dramatic work, that it may actually be either a joke, a parody of low budget student films, or a daring scam, a flippant effort to fleece potential moviegoers interested in something that has generated controversy. Even if it was meant to be a joke or a scam, however, it would still be bad.

The Brown Bunny truly is among the worst movies I have encountered in some while. It is so shockingly boring and painfully puerile that I actually felt sorry not for the director but for any person who gave up a part of his life to watch it.

Review by Keith Allen

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