Asylum Seekers (2009)
Directed by Rania Ajami
Lock me up and throw away the key.
Now this movie was tons of crazy fun. And when I say crazy, its literally crazy. Rania Ajami's Asylum Seekers is a film I haven't seen....well ever. It's like seeing a collage of crazy and making sense of it all. It's not going to be easy but your damn pesky brain tries.
Asylum Seekers is like Terry Gilliam's Brazil but in a mental institution. It's full wacky characters, surreal sets and live neuroses blended into a slushee of awesomeness. As the jaded viewer, the name exemplifies I've seen it all and nothing on screen will surprise me. But then comes along Asylum Seekers and makes some addictive dopamine that gives my brain a happy.
Asylum Seekers is a black comedy that takes you into the world of the surreal. It's the equivalent of tripping on acid, getting stoned, doing shrooms and drinking a cold glass of lemonade on a hot summer day. While totally whacked out of your mind, you may have no idea why your naked and feeding hard boiled eggs to a statue of a seal, but you know you're having fun. That's the same feeling you get watching this film.
Work, deadlines, family, terrorism, information overload... As modern life pushes the world to the brink of madness, six strangers decide there’s only one sane response: head through the door marked EXIT. It leads to a deluxe, exclusive, luxuriously-appointed mental asylum where a staff will wait on them hand and foot for the rest of their carefree lives. The problem? The asylum has only one vacancy. Now, the group of would-be patients will have to prove who among them is truly most deranged. Of course, not everything in the asylum is as it seems, and as the applicants turn themselves over for evaluation, they learn that the insanity has just begun.
Director Rania Ajami’s boldly original feature-length debut is a surreal black comedy that questions the ways we define what is normal and what is not. Asylum Seekers takes its characters – and the audience – deep into the rabbit hole to a place where sanity is not an option.
Our six insane in the membrane lunatics are all vying for a chance for that comfy bed and a place in The Asylum. They all each have unique disorders that cry out for help. We have Paul "the evangelical nihilist," Maude "the trophy mouse wife," Alan "the gender bender refuge", Alice "the cybernetic Lolita", Miranda "the introverted exhibitionist" and Raby, "the virgin nymphomaniac". Each member will be judged during their time in the asylum by Nurse Millie and her staff plus Dr. Beard, the all knowing honcho who echoes his voice through loudspeakers planted all over the building.
Now in a contest to claim the spot, each of the contestants wrestles with their neuroses with each other, with the staff and in a room of curiosity. Later, they duel out in a mock American Idol competition with stage performances and concoct their own plans to narrow down the competition. But what's a mental institution without loading up their patients full of drugs and experimenting on their subconscious by turning their heads into animals right?
It's just this amount of wacky that echoes an Alice in Wonderland style of eccentricity that makes the movie all out bonkers. What stands out are the production sets that are a saturation of vivid reds and greens and blues. Each room is unique from a mild mannered tile bathroom, to a makeshift bar to a waiting room where you well....wait. The costumes are each a delight when mixed in with the background. Alice our compu-nerd-holic (played by super hottie Stella Maeve) cosplays an awesome Sailer Moon outfit with a yellow tie. Miranda glows in green and Alan in super duper pink. It's a clash and contrast of rainbow visuals that makes for a stellar dreamlike quality. M&Ms meets Inception.
The cast does a stellar job of showing off the crazy. The movie focuses on Raby and Maude later in the flick and shows off some back story for each character. However, with such an ensemble like this, I'd like to have seen all our patients stories when they were on the outside. Being crazy in an asylum is one thing, but being nuts on the outside is like infinity times better.
And now we come down to the jokes. There are a few one liner zingers that had me cracking up "How do you have 0.4 kids?" Most of the LOLs and Hahas work but other's don't. There are moments of zzzzzzzzz and a few jokes that are clearly out of place. As much as I like completely banana characters, some of the musical numbers, dance numbers and one act numbers probably would have been funny in an off off off Broadway play.
But those are nitpicks to an otherwise insanely LEGEN wait for it DARY film. From impromptu karoake singing to oversized animal heads, Asylum Seekers might be the box office juggernaut in Wonderland. It has a hint of romanticism, a dash of wackiness, a nutmeg of linear saneness and a smidge of twisty twizzlers. I honestly have never seen anything like it and for that I'm glad. Ajami's first feature length film is a blast of creativity and fun. I'm looking forward to what she will do next.
A comedy like this needs to be seen. It has some of the most bizarre and WTF moments and like a hypnotic spell it's mesmerizing to watch just to see what would happen next. To put it another way, Asylum Seekers is exactly what I think a Lady Gaga dream looks like.
I thought I saw side boobage. It could have just been porn I was looking at before I saw this film.
Dr. Beard is revealed
The Jaded Viewer's Final Prognosis
The movie comes out on August 30th via Breaking Glass Pictures. It's about 90 minutes of the most shock therapy happy you'll get this year. I didn't have big expectations going into seeing Asylum Seekers but it totally blew me away.
I'm now picking up the pieces.
It may take some time but Asylum Seekers is bound for cult classic status. Hopefully we all discover this sooner than later.
Check out the trailer.