Saturday, April 04, 2009

Special: Grade A

Special (2006)
Michael Rapaport, Alexandra Holden, Jack Kehler; Co writers and directors Hal Haberman & Jeremy Passmore.

I have been a fan of Michael Rapaport since I saw him in Zebrahead in 1992 when he was only 22 years old, and I never could understand why he didn’t become a mega-star. Looking over his bio, it seems he has opted for serious acting roles in small movies, and for television, where I have surfed over him a few times and been appalled at the waste. But he’s back at full strength in this small, obscure movie.

Rapaport plays an ordinary, lonely guy, a parking cop, who signs up for an experimental drug testing program. The drug makes him believe he has super powers, such as the ability to levitate, read minds, and walk through walls. He decides to become a superhero so he makes himself a hilarious but sincere costume like a white ski outfit cum flight suit. He proceeds to thwart crimes at convenience stores and on the street by tackling the bad guys.

The brilliance of the writing and directing is in management of the point of view. We learn that police are searching for a strange guy in a white costume who tackles innocent people on the streets and in stores, and we start to get the idea that “Les” is delusional and that this movie’s genre is not fantasy but realism. Then it switches back to Les’s point of view and we realize that even if he is nuts, he has never before felt so confident about himself. The pills have given him new life, which is exactly what patients say after taking Prozac or other antidepressants. So we wonder, is he really delusional or just eccentric in living his life to the fullest? The point of view flips around skillfully, keeping us guessing and the dramatic tension high.

It is a very well-made movie, well-acted, and it illuminates the human condition. What more could one ask? Rapaport is even better than I remember him, in Kiss of Death (1995), for example. He is a joy to watch. Alexandra Holden, who has a small part, gives a standout performance.

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