Cinema Review – Scott Pilgrim Vs The World

Scott Pilgrim – an awesome 23 year old, who is between jobs – falls for the new girl in town; Ramona Flowers. Before they can date, however, Scott must defeat Ramona’s seven evil exes who have banded together to form The League of Evil Exes, and take Scott down.

When stripped down to it’s basic premise, film is about our hero and finally moving past the whiny childish relationships of his youth and coming to terms with his girlfriend’s past. The difference here is that Scott has to literally confront Ramona’s history, and defeat each of her evil exes before their relationship can really begin.

Michael Cera seemed to be a fairly obvious choice for Scott Pilgrim – he has been playing the awkward slacker for years. The good news, this time around, is that Edgar Wright actually challenges Cera’s acting muscles, forcing him to portray more than a goofy, mumbling teenager. Scott Pilgrim actually has a range of emotions, and is not the usual downtrodden character that Cera plays. In fact, Scott’s treatment of his ex girlfriend, Knives Chau, is stunningly thoughtless. As well as this, Scott is self pitying and careless. This may sound like it would turn the audience off such a character, but in his actions, Scott is relatable – haven’t we all been like this at some stage?

May Elizabeth Winstead has her work cut out for her as the object of Scott’s affections – Ramona Flowers. The character has to be alluring enough to draw Scott in straight away and for the audience to understand why she has seven evil exes fighting for her. Winstead makes the character mysterious, enigmatic, cool and ultimately – likeable. It is this combination that explains the effect Ramona has on people, even if her green hair is more than a little off-putting.

There are two real star turns in the movie. First is Kieran Culkin who plays Scott’s gay roommate, Wallace. Wallace can be equally as thoughtless as Scott, and perhaps even more selfish – he shamelessly steals other people’s (straight) boyfriends – but when it comes down to it, he reminds us that best friends are sometimes the ones to tell us to stop whining, get off the couch and do something about our problems. Culkin’s performance is easy, natural and hilarious. While little too much focus is given to Wallace’s sexual preferences in the film, Culkin takes this facet of his character, runs with it and makes it his own.

The other outstanding performance has to be newcomer Ellen Wong as Scott’s spurned girlfriend Knives Chau. Wong’s portrayal of the character is so wideeyed and lost puppy-ish that it is almost impossible not to root for her. That said, she may remind some of us of those clingy exes we would rather forget.

Edgar Wright has been perfecting his visual style for years. What began with the TV show Spaced was continued through Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. It is with Scott Pilgrim, however, that Wright’s visual style finally comes into it’s own. The cuts flow smoothly into one another, with conversations sometimes taking pace over several locations – crummy apartment, street to sleazy nightclub. Add to this blocks of comic book text that alternate between setting the scene, commenting on the action or describing sound effects and you have the perfect mix of comic book meets video game type action. The film is very much a love letter to video games, not only in the fight scenes, but through the little touches – the ‘life’ Scott gains, the fact that defeated foes turn into coins, and the Street Fighter-esque glowing ‘Vs’ that appears on screen before each fight.

Overall, there are times when the film feels a little like it is dragging its heels – perhaps seven evil exes were too much for one film? – but there is enough action, and a plot that keeps the audience guessing right up to the last minute, to make up for the lulls. The supporting cast – Aubrey Plaza, Anna Kendrick and the array of evil exes (in particular Brandon Routh, Chris Evans and Jason Schwartzman) – are fantastic and the soundtrack is filled with great tunes, including the track Scott Pilgrim, by Plumtree.

The film has a very specific target audience – it is, after all, the ultimate geek film – but anyone who has ever been in their early twenties, had a boyfriend/girlfriend with issues or lived in a damp basement will see some of their selves in Scott Pilgrim Vs The World and it is this coming-of-age story at the centre of the film that will stay with audiences long after the final evil ex has been defeated.

Also published at Spin 1038’s We Love Movies page

And a hybrid version – in conjunction with Anto – published at culch.ie

Rating: 4.5/5

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