I have on only rare occasions seen a short film that I would consider to be "perfect."
Gregory Go Boom, starring Michael Cera as a paraplegic trying dating for the first time with an epically disastrous result, is perfect.
It is. It just is.
You may think it's not, but it is. You may think it's dark. You may think it's demented. You may think it's cruel or inhumane or twisted or whatever.
You're right and you're wrong and it is what it is.
Gregory Go Boom is perfect.
If the film has a cinematic cousin, it is likely the Christina Ricci dark comedy Pumpkin, a 2002 indie gem that I embraced and that every friend I forced to the theater to see absolutely hated.
It was too dark. It was too demented. It was too unbelievable.
But, oh my God, it was so real. It was so real that I laughed and I cried and I practically shivered with how familiar everything felt.
Gregory Go Boom had a similar impact as I sat there watching everything unfold in the just over 17-minute film with my jaw dropped, simultaneously laughing and crying and just completely blown away.
If you've ever doubted whether or not Michael Cera can act (which should be resolved by now), then Gregory Go Boom will be the film that will just leave you staring at the screen absolutely fucking amazed at how he takes this character who is simultaneously sympathetic and pathetic, charming and self-absorbed, downright hostile and uncomfortably vulnerable.
The idea for the film came from an exchange witnessed by writer/director Janicza Bravo and boyfriend/co-producer/castmate Brett Gelman between a man in a wheelchair and a woman who'd been set up with him on a blind date without being told that he was in a wheelchair. She initially left, but in the real life version of the story she returned and, at least in that moment, everything seemed to go well.
Now then, you can rest assured that in real life both men and women who use wheelchairs do have loving and healthy and successful relationships. I myself, a paraplegic and double below-knee amputee with spina bifida, have been married and have dated teachers, nurses, a lawyer, a stripper, and even a professional cheerleader.
But, I've also dated the curious woman who got me naked just because she wondered what I looked like.
I've dated the woman who dated me long enough to find out whether or not "it" worked. I guess it didn't work well enough, eh?
I've dated the woman who had no problem pronouncing loudy "It smells kinda funny," and I've dated the woman who was insistent that I call her "mommy."
I'll admit that latter one was kinda fun for awhile.
I've been rejected on more than one occasion and, yes, I've been ruled out solely on the basis of my sitting down rather than standing up.
That's the thing. We don't want to believe that people are curious or crass or cruel, but people are curious and crass and cruel. It's a simple fact of life, and Bravo beautifully and powerfully and unforgettably captures that experience in a way that should make you want to be a whole hell of a lot kinder because you just never know. You never really know.
Michael Cera's performance here is simply top of the line, a performance that far transcends a good majority of the drivel you'll see in the movie theaters and a performance that says everything it should and more. While the performance might be a slight physical exaggeration of what it means to live one's life using a wheelchair, Cera still manages to embody it with an authenticity and an honest that is nothing short of mind-blowing.
Gregory Go Boom is a low-budget production that doesn't feel like a low-budget production. The power wheelchair was bought for the production then returned (I bet that was an interesting conversation), and Bravo has for the most part kept the production needs to a minimum. Heather Christian's music is unsettling and fantastic, while Christian Sprenger's lensing is appropriately awkward and intimate and jarring and just spot-on perfect.
The supporting players are uniformly strong, most notably Anna Rose Hopkins as Summer/Cheyenne, the closest thing Gregory experiences to a successful date and that involved being unceremoniously dumped out a window when her real boyfriend showed up unannounced.
Gregory Go Boom is darkly comical to such a point that you may very well end up feeling guilty for laughing. Intended more as a statement on the painfulness of being dismissed rather than a treatise on disability, Gregory Go Boom gets its point across again and again and again.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic