May 20, 2010

Rabid Rewind: Gentlemen Broncos

Title: Gentlemen Broncos
Starring: Michael Angarano, Jemaine Clement, Jennifer Coolidge, and Sam Rockwell
Directed by: Jared Hess
Written by: Jared Hess and Jerusha Hess
Released: Fox Searchlight Pictures (2009)

Where did this movie come from? Honestly, it must have been hiding under a rock somewhere--or maybe I was the one under a rock. A boy from the sticks, it stands to reason there'd be some rocks around here too.

Gentlemen Broncos is a story about honesty, identity, and some of the more eccentric people in the sci-fi community. Benjamin Purvis (Michael Angarano) is a home-schooled teen in a small town with a passion for writing science-fiction stories. He gets to attend a writing camp, which is guest-hosted by his idol, Chevalier (Jemaine Clement, of Flights of the Conchords fame). To make things even more exciting for Ben, all attendees are encouraged to enter their work to be judged with the winner receiving publication. Ben throws in his prized novel, The Yeast Lords.

Chevalier is on hard times creatively and upon seeing Ben's manuscript, he steals it and sells it as his own. Ben, unaware of the theft carries on in his life with doting and slightly oblivious mother (Jennifer Coolidge), his two new friends/pariahs, Tabitha and Lonnie, as well as his Guardian-Angel-of-sorts, Dusty (Mike White). It's through these relationships that Ben discovers just how aggravating his life is and how his creative life isn't quite where he wants it to be, ultimately leading him to seek advice from the very man who has plagiarized his work.

While hyped as "from the makers of Napoleon Dynamite"--and the movie definitely taps into the same quirky irreverence found in small towns--Gentlemen Broncos was so much funnier and memorable. Where I thought Napoleon Dynamite was just a thoroughly unlikable character--an amusing, unlikable character--Benjamin Purvis is a lot more sympathetic a protagonist. He's a bit on the bland side, but that's because he's so introverted and is playing straight man to an insane cast of characters.

Jennifer Coolidge is in top form as an ever-chipper mom with an unconditional pride in everything her son attempts. Jemaine Clement seems to channel James Mason in his voicing of Chevalier, and plays the egotistical prick to perfection. Mike White as Dusty is creepy on a level that circles the globe and comes all the way back to charming, which might be due to that amazing blond mullet.

And I would be remiss to not mention and praise Sam Rockwell's performance as Bronco in the intermittent cutaway scenes of The Yeast Lords and Chevalier's bastardization, Brutus and Balzaak. The scenes depicting the sci-fi story are so gloriously cheesy, every bad science-fiction atrocity I've ever seen or read came flooding back to me at full intensity. The ridiculous names, the odd obsession with sex as a subtext, and--oh my holy crap--surveillance does. I hate those.

And if there's one aspect of this movie that could out-awesome the Sam Rockwell scenes, it's the soundtrack. The Scorpions, Cher, Kansas, and Black Sabbath come together in a perfect storm of music that's candy for the ears. As a couple of bonuses for the DVD, there is a great collection of outtakes and a behind the scenes featurette.

If you're a writer with a self-deprecating sense of humor, I think you'll like this one. If you're a sci-fi bookworm, you'll probably dig it too. For the rest of you, it may not be as funny for you as it was for me. Quirky little movies like this tend to get a hot or cold response from audiences. I think you ought to give this one a chance, though.


  1. Well, I haven't been hiding under a rock, and I've never heard of this either. And I lived within walking distance of two art-house theaters last year, so it wasn't that I just missed the flick. BUT. It looks awesome, and I am adding it to my Netflix queue immediately. Thanks for the tip!

  2. A suprising choice but Itoo love this! Great write up ;)

  3. I think you'll get a kick out of it, Celia.

    Sara, thanks. It's good to see I'm not alone in appreciating this hidden gem.