SCHIZOPOLIS (director/writer: Steven Soderbergh; cinematographer: Steven Soderbergh; editor: Sarah Flack; music: Cliff Martinez/Joseph Wilkins/Mark Mangini/Harry Garfield; cast: Steven Soderbergh (Fletcher Munson), Betsy Brantley (Mrs. Munson/Attractive Woman No. 2), David Jensen (Elmo Oxygen), Eddie Jemison (Nameless Numberheadman), Scott Allen (Right-Hand Man), Mike Malone (T. Azimuth Schwitters), Katherine LaNasa (Attractive Woman No. 1); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: John Hardy; Northern Arts Entertainment; 1996)
“Though funny and observant at times, it still comes across as a strained juvenile guerilla movie whose bizarre antics never caught fire.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A strange surreal black comedy from writer-director Steven Soderbergh (“The Good German”/”The Informant!”/”Solaris”), that’s so incoherent it makes little sense and can’t be categorized. It purports to be a spoof on Scientology, the up tightness of life in modern America, the country’s obsession over dental hygiene, the loose sexual habits among the suburban marrieds, the emptiness in news reports, industrial espionage and paranoid professionals worked up over office politics in the workplace. It’s a plotless pic, strung together by a series of goofy vignettes. It tries to break the mold in how to make a film, and uses its largely nonsensical screenplay to that effect. Though funny and observant at times, it still comes across as a strained juvenile guerrilla movie whose bizarre antics never caught fire.
FilmmakerSoderbergh appears in dual acting roles.First he’sa timid desk jockey named Fletcher Munson, who works in an office for a Scientology-like corporation called Eventualism and gets a promotion to be a speechwriter for the cold, mean-spirited and haughty self-help guru T. Azimuth Schwitters (Mike Malone). The guru spouts uninteresting solipsisms that Fletcher must now ghost write, when promoted after the death of his colleague. The workplace is filled with rumors that there’s a mole in the office, which unsettles everyone but Fletcher. Meanwhile Fletcher is unmercifully bullied by his crass supervisor, the Right-Hand Man (Scott Allan). At home, Fletcher leads a dull life whereby he converses with his wife (Betsy Brantley, Soderbergh’s own ex-wife) by saying to her such things as ”Generic greeting.” And she responds, ”Generic greeting returned.”
Secondly, Soderbergh plays a swinging lovelorn dentist, who looks just like Fletcher and is having an affair with Fletcher’s wife.
There’s also a weird exterminator in an orange suit and goggles named Elmo (David Jensen), who seduces bored housewives, talks in untranslatable raves and at times storms into people’s homes.
The low-budget indie is bummed out with too many ideas that it can’t get to fast enough and as a result it beats its meat like a horny teenager looking for a little love anywhere it could find it. The deadpan comedy is an uneven effort at making an experimental non-commercial film, one that just has too much mayonnaise on it to wholly digest but is nevertheless tempting.
REVIEWED ON 7/3/2011 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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