My Suicide -- Film Review

Benjamin Walker
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 13:  Actor Benjamin Walker attends the "Bloody Bloody Jackson" opening night after party at Brasserie 8 1/2 on October 13, 2010 in New York City.

SAN FRANCISCO -- For all its visual inventiveness, glib humor and Internet-age trendiness, David Lee Miller's "My Suicide" is a throwback, an indulgent melodrama awash in teenage narcissism and sentimental self-regard.

While sparks of wit do surface in the script by Miller, Eric J. Adams and Gabriel Sunday, and animated sequences signal flashes of originality, it would've taken a magic touch to pull off a semi-comic/hyper-emotional take on teen suicide. The filmmakers don't have the chops to turn this queasy combo into a watchable movie. Not as funny as it wants to be and implausible when it tries to be serious, the film seems aimed at members of a demographic who feel most alive when they're online.

After a run on the festival circuit -- where viewers might suffer an overdose of shaky-cam -- it should quietly retire to the pastures of the Internet, the medium from which it derives the bulk of its ideas and sensibility. In fact, "Suicide" resembles an extended pastiche of YouTube postings -- that showcase for banalities, lovingly recorded for posterity and served up as fascinating viewing. But at least those are mercifully brief.

Constantly performing for the camera, Archie (Sunday) drones on in private reverie or utters what passes for profundity at 17 when not paying lame homage to movie classics. But he crosses the line from idle self-involvement to danger zone when he announces his plan to commit suicide on camera for his high school class project. Whether a viable threat or an attention-getting ploy, he's swiftly, if temporarily, packed off to a youth facility -- a place that's no match for his smarts.

The notoriety helps him win the heart of the perfect girl, Sierra (Brooke Nevin), a self-destructive beauty in a world of pain. The unhappy daughter of an affluent, seemingly ideal family (Mariel Hemingway plays the sweet-voiced mother), she offers herself to Archie so he won't die a virgin, but there's trouble in paradise.

She's a cutter and, later -- when the actual circumstances of her brother's death are revealed in a hysterical denouement worthy of a soap opera -- she tries to kill herself. Could it be that her interest in the hapless Archie was a call for help?

The constant shifting between 1950s PSAs, spoofs of commercials, digital video effects, home movies and Archie's monologues (Jordan J. Miller and Sunday are credited with the jarring editing) is hard on the nerves, as is Tim Kasher's irritating score.

The film's real guilty pleasure, though, is Nora Dunn as Archie's vociferous, political-activist mother. We could have used more of her ranting and less of Archie, who turns his life into a movie -- and a mediocre one at that.

Venue: San Francisco International Film Festival
Production: Archie Films, Go Code Prods., Luminaria Films, Red Rover Films, Regenerate Films
Cast: Gabriel Sunday, Brooke Nevin, Mariel Hemingway, Joe Mantegna, David Carradine, Nora Dunn
Director: David Lee Miller
Screenwriters: Eric J. Adams, David Lee Miller, Gabriel Sunday
Executive producers: Polly Anthony, Karen Dean Fritts, Alana Henry, Jimmy Iovine, Michael McDonough, Julia Pistor, Karyn Rachtman, Harold Ramis, Steven Jay Rubin
Producers: Todd Traina, Larry Janss, David Lee Miller, Eric J. Adams
Directors of photography: Lisa Wiegand, Angie Hill
Production designer: Suzanne Rattigan
Music: Tim Kasher
Costume designers: Amanda Oliver, Caitlin Winn
Editors: Jordan J. Miller, Gabriel Sunday
No rating, 109 minutes