Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
Starring Joe Alwyn, Garrett Hedlund, Steve Martin, Vin Diesel, Kristen Stewart, Makenzie Leigh
I’ve been frustrated by two time Oscar winning director Ang Lee’s films before, but the disaster now known as Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk reaches new depths. Disclaimer, I saw the film in regular 2D presentation, not the 120 high frame rate that bothered so many critics at festivals. Lee would have been better off making this a traditional life of a solider, as opposed of having these guys at a halftime show, behind the scenes of the super bowl. The entire premise is a cross cut between Iraq flashbacks and the negation of a movie deal, making it one of the most absurd things I’ve seen this year. It feels like we are watching b-roll footage cut from some other movie.
William Lynn (Alwyn) has returned home to the small town of Stovall, Texas to visit with his family, including liberal, war protesting sister Kathryn (Stewart). That visit doesn’t go very well at the dinner table and neither does their required presence at the Thanksgiving Super Bowl in Dallas where Lynn and his fellow soldiers are participating in the halftime show with Destiny’s Child. They greet many fans who offer their prayers, thanks, and congratulations for the traumatic battle they survived, and Lynn’s receiving the silver star. The brave men come to feel misunderstood, misplaced and eager for the elaborate dog and pony show to end so they might return to duty. They have hired a fast-talking agent (Tucker) to negotiate the movie rights with Hollywood, in hopes of cashing in on their heroism.
It feels like we are watching b-roll footage cut from some other movie.
If Lee’s goal was to stereotype and misrepresent the diversity of Texan’s, he sure succeeds. He also does an excellent job at revealing how worthless, absurd and moronic both the Super Bowl and its halftime show is with respect to anything else that actually matters in the world. “I don’t know much about anything, really,” Lynn says to a Dallas Cowboy’s cheerleader, implying that solders are a bunch of mindless volunteers with nothing better to do. For his first acting job Alwyn is somewhat impressive, he has the face of experience in a young man’s body. It’s this embarrassing screenplay and mockery of a narrative that will make anyone want to forget his film debut. However, the miss cast awards could be handed out left and right for Martin, Tucker, Diesel and Stewart. Makenzie Leigh (James White) leads the charge with one of the year’s most insufferable performances as the religious bimbo cheerleader (another handful of stereotypes) enough to make a film critic throw their notepad in the isle.
I think it’s great for filmmakers to push cinema beyond it’s comfortable borders, and when Peter Jackson tried and failed using the HFR in The Hobbit, it was lambasted. Lee’s film will suffer a worse fate, because The Hobbit was a franchise, had more to offer than some new gimmick. Billy Lynn seems to be entirely framed around this technology, and now that 99.9% of theaters are showing the 2D cut, no one will ever see what Lee worked, and failed, so hard to produce. There are serious head scratching moments in this movie that should make anyone question why and how this particular version of Ben Fountain’s novel got a green light. It’s actually far worse than critics, trades and word of mouth suggested (promoting Sony to cancel all press screenings and their planned awards push) it’s an epic failure, and a chore to sit through.
One of the biggest failures from such an acclaimed filmmaker in recent years.