Easily the most controversial film of 2014, The Interview pulled no punches in it’s depiction of North Korea’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, soaring to all new heights of political incorrectness. Directed and written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (the same team behind This Is The End), this comedy stars James Franco as Dave Skylark, a slow-witted, night-time celebrity chat show host, and Seth Rogen as his producer and bromantic best friend, Aaron. While their TV show, Skylark Tonight, is wildly popular for revealing the hidden secrets of Hollywood’s finest, Aaron dreams of breaking into more serious journalism, and the pair set out to find some political guests for their show.
When Dave discovers that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is a fan of Skylark Tonight, their first political interview is set – so long as it takes place in North Korea, with questions that are planned and scripted by Kim’s propagandists. But Kim isn’t the only one with an agenda, and before long the CIA are knocking at Aaron and Dave’s door, providing them with one simple task they are to complete during their trip: to assassinate Kim Jung-un.
It’s pretty clear from the get go why the North Korean government didn’t want this movie to be released, but bumbling duo Dave and Aaron do an equally good job satirising the pitfalls of the US media industry. This kind of humour walks a knife’s edge between comedic and downright offensive, but Rogen and Goldberg seem to pull it off without ruffling too many (more) feathers. There’s only one issue: The Interview is squarely aimed at young, heterosexual males – with plenty of girls in bikinis, explosions and anus-related jokes to suit – and while they might find it funny, a larger majority of the population are going to feel alienated by this film.
As someone who does not fall into this target audience, I took particular issue with the representation of women in the film. The two women who have substantial roles in the film (yep, two whole women!) include CIA Agent Lacey (Lizzie Caplan) and Kim’s propagandist Sook (Diana Bang), both of whom get to play strong, powerful characters. And yet, this is totally undermined by the fact that their figure-hugging clothing and over-sexualised nature acts merely as a focus for Dave and Aaron’s sexual energy, and the main way in which these women get what they want. Not to mention a host of gags that could very easily be labelled sexist if they are taken the wrong way (“This is 2014, women are smart now!”).
It’s not all bad news however, and in all honesty I found myself relatively engrossed by what was playing out before me, in the same way you might be transfixed by a train crash filmed in slow motion. While some of the jokes fall flat, there were enough winners to keep me entertained for the first two thirds, before the film rapidly disintegrated into ridiculous, and unexpectedly gory madness. James Franco’s performance is questionable, but manageable, and Seth Rogen remains someone whose on-screen presence is always welcome in my eyes. But it is Randall Park’s performance as the surprisingly metrosexual Kim Jung-un that really steals the show, plus there’s a few adorable puppies thrown in to boot.
While it might not live up to the amount of publicity it received, I actually think The Interview is a worthwhile watch, if only as an educational tool on how not to make a comedy. But there’s no doubting that this film is one of a kind, and if you want to see something that is original and isn’t afraid to turn the crazy-scale up to 11, just for the hell of it, then you have definitely come to the right place.
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