(No longer in theaters)
John J. Kelly, Mike White
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Oct 30, 2009
Gentlemen Broncos is the atrocious title of an enchantingly freakish comedy that centers on Benjamin (Michael Angarano), a teen who writes Dune-like sci-fi tomes (The Yeast Lords) in which he sublimates like mad to relieve his sexual discomfort. No, director Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite) doesn’t spell it out, but by the third or fourth time Benjamin’s fictional hero (Sam Rockwell)—in garish, Pop Art fantasy sequences—loses his gonads and faces off against giant, laser-blasting mammaries, he doesn’t really need to. There’s enough weird breast imagery in this movie to make Robert Crumb murmur, “This guy’s got issues.”
Angarano’s Benjamin moves through the world on the verge of tears, looking as if he wanted to will his body out of existence. I’ve never seen a teen hero so stricken, but then, everyone in Hess’s movies appears to be suffering from some unspecified gastrointestinal distress. Gentlemen Broncos is best when Hess doesn’t force the grotesquerie but casually lets you observe. There’s a bit when bodice-ripper writer Tabitha (Halley Feiffer, a whiz with deadpan) squirts lotion all over her hand and asks an aghast Benjamin to rub it in, as her rictus-faced friend Lonnie (Héctor Jiménez) leans into her ear issuing moose calls and crunching potato chips; David Lynch would murmur, “This guy’s got issues.”
The best part is Jemaine Clement as Benjamin’s grandiose genre hero, Dr. Ronald Chevalier. Even if you love him on Flight of the Conchords, you’ll be unprepared for his genius—and charisma. Gazing on his young fans, he intones, “So many juvenescent, ripe minds,” looking and sounding under his dark, heavy beard like James Mason’s Captain Nemo on the verge of a titanic belch.