Review: Be Kind, Rewind (2008)

Please let genius Gondry only ever direct scripts written by not him.

Michel Gondry-as-music-video director is undeniably genius. Gondry-as-movie-buff is delightful. It’s hard not to get the impression that Petit Gondry was Sweding movies all through his childhood – and he clearly still is, within the bigger-budget framework of Be Kind, Rewind. It’s as inspiring as the idea of imagination transcending resources (or lack thereof) should be.

While there’s so much visual inventiveness and heart, the writing doesn’t quite measure up. Yasiin Bey (then known as Mos Def) and Jack Black are two born entertainers. And yet in this, at best they’re caricatures of themselves, and at worst they’re… less? The earnest, sweetly emotional finale plays like Gondry’s own passionate love of film, visualised; the story and execution leading to it are charmingly childlike, but the writing feels juvenile. That may sound like semantics, but the distinction is what keeps Be Kind, Rewind just shy of out-and-out greatness.

Contrast this with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), where Gondry’s mind-bendingly playful visuals were a counterpoint to Charlie Kaufman’s emotional, essentially dark story. The balance results in something more accessible, if not poignant, than either creator has managed on his own.

Further Viewing

Beyond the film, however, something wonderful happened: Gondry inspired audiences to produce “Sweded” films of their own: