Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

I had been aware of this movie for a while, but not aware that it was directed by Edgar Wright, who was also responsible for Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and other British films I had been fan of.  I should have been paying more attention. 

I also didn't really become aware of what the whole plot line of this film was until quite late.  It did look to me when I saw the previews that it was a typical film featuring a guy trying to get some inaccessible girl.  Again, I probably wasn't paying attention, as anything sounding like a romantic comedy since Love Actually went as far with that type of movie as possible makes me role my eyes.  Unlike many people, I have no opinion whatsoever on Michael Cera, so that never informed my opinion.

The video game element, once I started hearing more about it, got my attention.  Also what got my attention is the discussion of the "manic pixie dream girl," which has now been done to death and made blanket to throw over many female characters that were never meant as such.  I didn't have a name for it, but it was a trope in films that had bothered me for a long time, along with male romantic rivals being completely beyond the realm of belief.  Critics like to talk about the impossible standards established for women in the media, but rarely do they remember that another set of impossible standards is set for men. 

So, yes.  Other than some weird hatred of Michael Cera (which I really don't understand) I did go into this movie with some baggage, as well as anticipation.  Such is the modern way of ruminating over a subject and passing it through the internet like a cow with infinite stomachs.

Scott Pilgrim (Cera) is a 22-year-old living in Toronto.  He plays bass in an indie band called Sex Ba-Bomb! with a guitarist named Stephen Stills (Mark Webber) and drummer Kim Pine (Alison Pill), who dated Pilgrim in high school.  High school may have been quite important to Scott as is currently dating 17-year-old Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) despite the constant glares from Kim and comments from the rest of his friends.  He also lives in a one-room apartment with his gay friend Wallace (Kieran Culkin), who is also hinting that it might be time for Scott to be off on his own.

Scott decides that maybe his friends are right and tries, repeatedly, to break up with Knives, but doesn't have the guts - not even when Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), the literal girl of his dreams, shows up in town.  Her reaction to him is initially icy, but things progress and they become an item.  There is one catch - Ramona has seven evil exes that Scott must defeat before he can be with Ramona.

This comes as a surprise after he deletes an email from Matthew Patel (Satya Babha), the first ex, which results in a surprise fight in a night club in which Scott uses his skills he has learned from old-school video games to defeat him.  From there the exes come fast and furious, becoming even more dangerous as they go along. 

While busy wooing Ramona, Stephen and Kim become increasingly concerned that Scott is letting Sex Ba-Bomb! down at a critical time when they could actually win a series of band battles and get a recording contract, eventually replacing him with Young Neil (Johnny Simmons), who largely just hung around and cheered them on.  The guy behind the recording contract, however, may not be who they think he is.  Meanwhile, Knives is also not to happy about being pushed aside for Ramona, and may become a force to be reckoned with as well.

First, the manic pixie dream girl thing.  This type of character was already being debated by the time the movie was made, and I don't see Ramona as such.  Ramona is largely her own person, and becomes even more so (for certain reasons) after Scott defeats the final ex.  Any interpretation that she is there simply as a catalyst for him to grow and learn is within his own mind.  Ramona never offers this nor encourages it.  Scott Pilgrim is not a likeable character in any sense; he is lazy, selfish and treats his friends like dirt.  He does grow and starts to realize what he has done, and not because of Ramona, but rather as the result of facing his own mortality and realizing this all on his own.  The final scenes show that Pilgrim has grown enough to see Ramona as a person rather than an archetype.

So, with that out of the way, the movie is an adaptation of a comic book series, and in fact a series that inhabits its own world.  What we have here, essentially, is low fantasy where music can manifest itself, a vegan can punch a hole in the moon and people explode into Canadian currency when they die. It has a plot that makes sense, but in the way that many dreams have a plot that makes sense but everything else doesn't.  The door imagery is especially telling that this may be either a dream that Scott is having one particular night and the doors are the different stages of this dream journey.  It could just as easily be his afterlife, and the doors representing his journey from one section to another as he works out the lessons he should have in life.  It is something that, as I said earlier, causes rumination, as there is much more going on here than funny quotes and pretty lights.

As for the performances, Cera fits Pilgrim well, and Winstead keeps Ramona a bit of a mystery, but not devoid of personality (especially when she really goes to town on one of her exes).  There is a deep, complex person there, but it is up to Pilgrim to find that out.  The band is hilarious, particularly Kim, and Aubrey Plaza almost steals the show as the over-achieving Julie, who is the opposite of Scott in every way.

So far Edgar Wright is on a winning streak (yes, I did like The World's End quite a bit, thank you) as a director, and I do need to pay more attention since I haven't anticipated a new director's movies so much since Sam Raimi or Peter Jackson before they became Hollywood darlings.  This movie, like the ones before it, will have you rolling on the floor with laughter, but there is so much beneath the surface that it is worth multiple viewings and discussion.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
Time: 112 minutes
Starring: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Director: Edgar Wright

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