Film Review – Don Peyote
Self-indulgent. That describes both the main character and the new film Don Peyote itself. Meant to be a comically surreal journey through one slacker’s drug addled head, instead this film is a meandering bout of navel gazing that tires out the viewer well before it is over.
Written, directed by, and starring frequent character actor Dan Fogler, this is obviously a personal project. Fogler is Warren Allman, a 32 year old “graphic novelist” (whom we never actually see doing any work) who is on the verge of marriage and potential fatherhood. His eager fiancee feels her biological clock ticking. She times their lovemaking to her cycle. Meanwhile, Warren is lost in his own head. All he really wants to do is every drug in reach. Frequently walking about in a pot fueled haze, he mostly observes the wackiness of those around him while theoretically directing a documentary about some deeper meaning that he swears will change the world. We don’t see him working on his film very often. We never see him making any art. Mainly he gets bug eyed while dopily staring at random folks who pop up in his life to impart “deep” philosophical meaning.
Some big named stars lend their presence to this endeavor. Anne Hathaway shows up as an ass kicking figure of Truth with a capital T who has an emotional collapse and then rapidly disappears. Jay Baruchel shows up as the main character’s Paranoia, though all he really seems to do is facilitate more bong hits. Josh Duhamel shows up as a survivalist couple pushing Iowasca on our protagonist. A waitress played by Anabella Sciorra impatiently screams Italian at Warren. Wallace Shawn as Warren’s therapist is almost funny. Topher Grace in a cheesy wig breaks the fourth wall of the film as Fogler’s agent making jokes about how he’s got to stop these crazy indie film projects. None of them seem to offer anything very profound. They make a lot of noise, but none of it makes a meaningful impression. It’s almost like watching an impressively cast acting class.
This script spends too much time telling instead of showing. The tired trope of an omniscient narrator commenting on what Warren is really thinking is used throughout. But film styles are used for a little while and dropped. There’s surreal camera angles, dream sequences, disaster rendered in bad CGI, scary orgy settings, and more. But none of it goes anywhere. Basically we are going through a 30 something dope smoker’s anxiety about maybe being a father. He doesn’t have any actual problems other than his own head. But the script doesn’t really deflate his narcissistic journey. We are supposed to be laughing at him, but the movie is more noisy than funny. Once again, we’re supposed to relate to the flabby white guy full of angst.
Drug fuelled comedy can be fun (your Cheech and Chongs or your Harold and Kumars). Dangerous and surreal journeys can fascinating (see almost anything by Terry Gilliam). Unfortunately, Don Peyote is neither. It’s basically like listening to your pothead roommate pontificate about the meaning of life and then freak out about how hard he has it. Tiring.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxysFy8B8bE&w=560&h=315]