No shocker that Beowulf dominated the box office last weekend with its fancy digital animation and naked-gold-dipped Angelina Jolie. (Does anyone else miss the simpler days of Walt Disney?) This weekend, MGM’s The Mist (based on just about the scariest Stephen King short story ever) will try to steal the needing-escape-from-the-holiday contingent and scare the bejesus out of them. But! If you’re looking for a movie that we can confidently declare is the most, shall we say unusual thing around (no, seriously, think of the weirdest movie you’ve ever seen and multiply it by 10; if you double that number, you’ll be about halfway there), then look to the man playing Grendel in Beowulf, Crispin Hellion Glover, and his new film It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE, which opens today at the IFC Center.
Mr. Glover has a history of eccentricity—remember the whole Dave Letterman karate-kicking incident?—and in addition to his roles in Back to the Future (McFly!), River’s Edge and Charlie’s Angels, he’s done a bunch of original art books, and has even recorded musical albums, including original songs “Clowny Clown Clown” and a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Ben.” His last film, What Is It?, which he self-financed over the course of nine years, was unique in that most of the cast had Down Syndrome. So when we were told that there were no screeners of Mr. Glover’s new film available, and that Mr. Glover would show us the film on his laptop personally (apparently he’s worried about it leaking onto the Internet), we tried to take it stride. Even though, you know, really?
Sitting quietly in the IFC cafe, wearing a natty velvet green jacket and tie, Mr. Glover was quiet and polite, eager to show the film (he co-directed it with David Brothers) of which he is earnestly proud. His hair is long, and his handsome birdlike face at 43 is unlined. It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE is the second in a trilogy that began with What Is It? The script was written by Steven C. Stewart, a Utah-based wheelchair-bound cerebral palsy sufferer, who also starred in the film (and died shortly after its completion). The film explores the inner, sometimes-romantic-and-more-often-violently-sexual fantasies of Paul, Stewart’s semiautobiographical alter ego. Paul (who, of course, is also wheelchair-bound and suffers cerebral palsy) loves women of all ages and sizes, and seems to have quite a long-hair fetish. Sure, it’s a little disconcerting at the start of the film not to be able to understand 95 percent of the speech of the main character. (The women in the film—including a still-smoldering Margit Carstensen—don’t seem to have this problem and fill in the missing pieces for the audience. Mr. Glover said he felt it would be condescending to add subtitles.) But that pesky issue pales as the movie progresses, getting more lurid and psychosexual as it goes along. In Paul’s fantasy life, woman after woman is simply dying to have sex with him, which unfortunately tends to lead to them actually dying too. Think you feel weird about seeing a handicapped person get orally pleasured? Just wait, that’s the least of it. The sets are appropriately broody and David Lynchian, all deep reds and blues, and the score certainly had us think of The Nutcracker and The Sound of Music (yup!) in a totally different way.
Once you’re past the shocking imagery, there is a poignancy to be found within the film, and it certainly makes a statement about living with a handicap (though we’re not yet completely sure what that statement is). Mr. Glover is clearly proud of the final result. “This will be the best movie of my career,” he predicted.
It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE! opens Wednesday at the IFC Film Center. Visit http://www.crispinglover.com for more background on the film.