By now you’ve heard of The Interview, a comedy by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg about journalist Dave Skylark (James Franco) and his producer Aaron Rapaport (Rogen) who go to North Korea to talk to Kim Jong-un…and to “take him out” as requested by the CIA. In a scene where the egomaniac Skylark pitches the interview to his producer, the entertainment journalist says, “First rule of journalism: give the people what they want!”
Skylark may have made that rule up, but it applies to all of media: people around the world wanted to see the movie caught in the middle of the Sony hack. The buzz surrounding the movie increased after Sony pulled the movie days before its Christmas Day release. The distributor felt like they had no choice after threats of violence against movie-goers from the Guardians of Peace, a hacking group claiming to be behind all the e-mail leaks. The president and right-wing politicians rallied behind the movie to show that America is against censorship.
What was intended to be a simple movie where the Rogen-Franco duo continued their silly antics transformed into a symbol of free speech. At Sundance this month, Franco told Rolling Stone that people had this misinterpretation that the movie “would be Zero Dark Thirty or something.” Despite terrible reviews from top critics, many people saw the movie in independent theaters or bought it online. Now, The Interview is available for streaming on Netflix, which brings the movie to a wider audience.
Give it a chance during one of your binges, but don’t expect a deep satire. Instead, the movie equally pokes fun at the American entertainment media and the North Korean regime. Throughout the movie, celebrities make cameos on the mock T.V. show Skylark Tonight, where Rapaport and Skylark are solely concerned with getting the headline. To extreme gossip outlets, an exclusive usually means finding out an 80s heartthrob is secretly bald or that a pop star checked into rehab.
The movie playfully highlights the vulture-like motives of entertainment media. Even when the plot reaches the climax during Skylark’s sit-down interview with Kim Jong-un, Rogen cuts to a newsroom back in the U.S. where journalists are watching it unfold while huddled around the monitors drinking wine. This portrayal winks at how the media even presents hard news or primetime interviews with politicians as entertainment to engage the American public.
As for the depiction of the country’s leader, the creators of The Interview characterize him as a bro archetype who collects fancy cars, pops bottles, and listens to Katy Perry. They even throw in some daddy issues to make the character dynamic. The film gives some stereotypes of a ruthless dictator to Kim Jong-un towards the end primarily for comedic effect.
Don’t go stream The Interview if you’re looking for a sharp satire on the horrors of North Korean government. Watch it if you’re into movies that have ridiculous elements like a leader that’s secretly obsessed with Perry’s “Firework”. Also, if you’re into squeamish physical comedy this is all you. Finally, don’t look back on the movie asking yourself if it was worth the uproar and the hacking scandal. Just ask yourself if you got a few laughs from it, which were its makers’ intentions.
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