Wednesday, September 4, 2013

#1,115. Nothing (2003)

Directed By: Vincenzo Natali

Starring: David Hewlett, Andrew Miller

Tag line: "What if you wished everyone - and everything - would just go away!"

Trivia: David Hewlett, Andrew Miller and director Natali grew up and went to high school together

What if you could make everything you don’t like disappear? That’s the idea behind director Vincenzo Natali’s 2003 indie film Nothing. Dave (David Hewlett) and Andrew (Andrew Miller) are best friends who find they have the power to make anything they hate completely disappear. Unfortunately, what they “hate” is the entire world!

Not that you can blame them, really. See, Dave and Andrew are two of life’s losers, and have been ever since childhood. Living together in Andrew’s tiny little house (which is situated smack dab in the middle of a major highway), they’ve watched the world pass them by. Dave tries his best to live a normal life, going so far as to announce he’s moving in with his girlfriend, Sara (Marie-Josée Croze), only to find that Sara has been using his password to embezzle some $27,000 from the company he works for. This costs poor Dave not only his girlfriend (who confesses she never really liked him), but his job as well. As for Andrew, he’s so scared of everything and everybody that he can’t even venture outside the house. After accidentally locking himself out, a young Fireside girl (Elana Shilling) comes to his rescue, then tells her mother (Soo Garay) Andrew tried to kiss her. What’s more, the city has scheduled their house for demolition, giving Dave and Andrew until 3 p.m. to evacuate the premises. With everything closing in on them, these pals have nowhere to turn.

Then, in a flash, all their troubles are gone. Realizing something very strange has happened, Dave and Andrew take a peek outside and discover that the whole world, aside from Andrew’s house, has completely disappeared, leaving only a white void in its place. They’re able to walk on it (Andrew compares the surface, which is bouncy, to tofu), yet no matter how far they go, the two always end up back at the house. Before long, they figure out what caused this unusual phenomenon: they have the ability to make anything they hate vanish into mid-air! For these nobodies, a lot of nothing is just what the doctor ordered, but the question is: how long will it be before Dave and Andrew start hating each other?

Along with its intriguing premise, Nothing also benefits from some fairly cool special effects, both outside the house (Dave and Andrew have a great time bouncing around the void) and inside (when a ticking wall clock gets on Andrew’s nerves, he wishes it away, causing it to disintegrate before our eyes). Both Hewlett and Miller play their roles broadly, trying to milk as much humor from the situation as they can, and while the jokes aren’t side-splittingly funny, the two do manage to come across as lovable losers. Nothing even tries to delve into more serious issues when the friends discover they can “hate” away bad memories. Whereas Dave purges an embarrassing schoolyard incident, Andrew eliminates large chunks of his childhood and, in the process, becomes a new man. 

Yet, despite the occasional stroll into more dramatic territory, Nothing is played primarily for laughs, and, as a result, doesn’t have a whole lot of meat on its bones. Like the world its two lead characters left behind, this movie will quickly disappear from your memory. But even though it falls short of being a great film, Nothing is, at the very least, a fascinating experiment.

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