Madness in the Method
Madness in the Method is the interesting and often hilarious directorial debut from Jason Mewes, better known to the world as the Jay in Jay and Silent Bob. It tells the somewhat fictional story of Jason Mewes who, with the help of a “mythical” method-acting book, goes through a series of insane, emotional and violent events in order to be taken seriously, avoid typecasting and increase his star power, all with a growing disregard for his friends and loved ones around him.
The film, the brain child of writers Dominic Burns and Chris Anastasi, was, originally, conceived to be a generic satire on Hollywood and method acting and it was, apparently, Jason Mewes’ idea to add some real life elements of his story to it. This change both helps and hinders the film in some ways. At its best it adds layers of emotion, depth and history to some of the scenes - especially the argumentative face off between Mewes and, long time collaborator, Kevin Smith - but occasionally it does skirt over the line of an actor, who’s had more chances than most, complaining that he isn’t taken seriously enough. Luckily that feeling doesn’t linger once the violent slapstick and hilarious cameos get going.
The incredible thing about the film is how ambitious it is. The film joyously and creatively jumps around genres with little to no regard for continuity of tone, the story has many on going plots all of which require and, more or less receive, satisfactory resolutions, it has running gags, running themes, dream sequences that feature song and dance numbers, action sequences, some people playing themselves and other people playing fictional people and many more plates that Jason Mewes, the cast and his crew need to keep spinning in the air. While it’s not all plain sailing and there are definitely some choppy waters here and there, for the most part, I am glad to say, they succeed - No small feet for an actor some might write off as a one trick pony, directing himself and a starry cast for the first time.
I have been a long time fan of Kevin Smith’s films and grew up with him and Jay’s stories - first on film, then on commentary tracks and other DVD extras, then on podcasts, and on a variety of interviews and shows the two have done over the years. While I don’t listen regularly to any of the podcasts anymore, I feel like I knew everything I needed to know to get every reference and beat in the film. I do wonder how it would play to people with either no frame of reference or only very little context.
The good news is that the film rockets along at a great pace, has some truly inspired moments of dark comedy that are played well, has a healthy sense of the absurd and looks pretty decent too. It opts, as so many independent films do nowadays, for a lot of handheld shaky cam which is just my own pet peeve to overcome I guess, as it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. There are some sections of the film where it seems rushed or edited a little sloppy and/or too much and there are definitely some bits that don’t land or where the film bites off more than it can successfully chew but if you’re looking for perfection in what was so obviously a fun, silly and weird romp then you’ve sort of missed the point.
It’s mostly in the comedy where the film really shines, often playing like a bizarre sketch film - The sequence where Mewes first tries out his “method”, for example, and it goes spectacularly and violently wrong has moments of sublime, grim hilarity and is played perfectly by Jay. There is also the running gag about a paranoid and permanently pissed off Dean Cain that shows off the actor’s unexpected comic chops, the idea that the method book, imbued with impossible legacy by the mysterious and, apparently, hauntingly beautiful Fernando Villarreal (Jamie Camil), looks like a cheap “idiots guide to the Method” book, the joke that people can’t help but fall in love with Fernando and the ever increasingly bizarre dream sequences set to Betty Hutton’s It’s Oh So Quiet. All of these scenes and a few other delightful cameos make this movie worth the watch. The acting is uniformly good as well.
It would be easy, of course, to poke holes in this. The film isn’t always successful with its tonal shifts and genre changes, it gets a bit messy and loses its satire in the second half, it tries to do too much instead of focusing on just a couple of things and doing them really well, the often used, screensaver style, cityscape shots of Los Angeles get a little repetitive and are unnecessary, not all the jokes are given time to land and none of the characters are exactly what you would call “fleshed-out” but, in general, for a slapdash, slapstick, romp with attention deficit disorder, there is a lot to enjoy and nitpicking it is for humourless dolts.
The film it is a lot like Jason Mewes himself. It has a wonderful, wide-eyed, innocence to it, it has a childish yet surreal and also very dark sense of humour, it is glossy but haphazard, interested it itself but also always racing on to the next thing, can’t decide on quite what it is but has enough of a handle on where it’s going that you don’t worry and it never stops having fun. In the words of Kevin Smith “A million dollar heart, a nickel head but a million dollar heart.”
Definitely one for the fans but anyone with even a passing interest in Jay and Silent Bob and the people behind them, will definitely get a kick out of it.
Madness in the Method has its European premiere at FrightFest on 24 August at 8.45 p.m. in the Arrow Video Screen and 9.15 p.m. in the Horror Channel Screen at the Cineworld Leicester Square.