Deadpan, Offbeat And Funny;
Pure Jarmusch Flavor.
Jim Jarmusch isn’t for everyone and I freely admit that I can’t shake my bias towards him when I sit down to watch his work. His brand of strange just works really well for me (The Limits of Control notwithstanding), and this was a great example.
I imagine the outtake reel for this movie is a mile long. The humor is so gloriously deadpan and awkward that holding it together for the space of even a single take must have been a challenge. A cavalcade of actors from his past films appear (including Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Adam Driver, RZA, Tom Waits, Iggy Pop, Chloe Sevigny and more) and contribute to a wide array of roles, populating this sleepy town with a colorful cast of characters. Characters are paired up in humorous scenarios that allow them to share slight hints of hilarious looks or dry, witty dialogue that just keeps coming, an endless march of offbeat lines and expressions that rival the nature of the undead horde itself. The script has an ebb and flow and the actors maximize on pauses and environmental cues for laughs.
The reason for all of this apocalyptic madness? Polar fracking has knocked the Earth off its axis, causing a rotational shift that is waking the dead from their eternal slumber. And that’s not the only bit of commentary to be found, as the zombies all gravitate to what they were familiar with during life. That could be wine and coffee or it could be Siri and Wi-Fi. Jarmusch pulls no punches in this regard, skewering us for our Earthly obsessions and pointing out in no uncertain terms that we are the zombies, and we amuse and disgust him in equal measure.
Jarmusch isn’t afraid to break the fourth wall somewhat, but finds refreshing ways to do so. A running but subtle bit with the soundtrack is a great addition, filling vital spaces of dialogue and adding a unique layer to the humor. Sturgill Simpson and the song are real, and the gag fits perfectly within the Jarmusch Cinematic Universe. Also, RZA drives a WU PS delivery truck. I’m sorry if that’s a spoiler, but it’s just an awesome sentence to be able to type.
Above all, it’s a relentlessly enjoyable hundred minutes, with Jarmusch merging the comedy and zombie genres in his own way. And I know he’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but he always does well to illustrate his fascination with the oddity of humans. He doesn’t color inside or outside the lines, he seeks out the untouched corners brings them to life, which resonates with me. So maybe, like I said, that bias is hard to check. Maybe it’s because the house was packed and the movie kept us all laughing. Maybe it’s because my family had spoiled me on Father’s Day. Or maybe it was just really good. All I know is one of my favorite directors has made quite a quirky world, and in the words of Hermit Bob (grumbled by the incomparable Tom Waits), “what a fucking world.”
The Dead Don’t Die is Written and Directed By Jim Jarmusch
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