Disaster/Masterpiece: Freddy Got Fingered

It’s been advanced that insanity and genius are two sides of a same reality, two somehow intertwined extremes. Tom Green’s oeuvre is a good example of that. From his original Canadian show to its reinvented MTV version, Green made a name for himself by pulling the most demented stunts, be it humping a dead moose, putting a horse’s head in his parents’ bed à la Godfather or making a one hour special about his real-life removal of a cancer-ridden testicle. Some will dismiss it all as the work of a wacko, but others find it brilliant in an admittedly very quirky way. I fall in the latter category, finding Green to be a fearless performer with an intriguing vision. He made his big screen debut in a bit part in “Superstar”, then stole and ran away with “Road Trip”, and finally with “Freddy Got Fingered” (which he co-wrote and directed in addition to playing the lead role), he’s come up with, in his own words, “the stupidest, most disgusting movie you’ve ever seen.”

Green stars as Gord Brody, a 28 year-old slacker who finally leaves home to go to Hollywood and pursue is dream of working as a cartoon animator. Of course, making it as an artist is not that easy, and Gord finds himself rejected by a studio executive (Anthony Michael Hall) and stuck in a cheese sandwich factory, a dead-end job if there ever was one. So he returns to Portland and moves back in his parents’ basement, much to the disenchantment of his father (Rip Torn). Dad wants him to get a job, but Brody prefers to take it easy drawing his “doodles”, skateboarding with his best buddy (Harland Williams) and hanging with his wheelchair-bound rocket scientist girlfriend (Marisa Coughland). Henceforth begins a war between father and son where no blow is too low, be it destroying Gord’s skateboard ramp or denouncing Daddy as a child molester who fingered younger brother Freddy (Eddie Kaye Thomas) – hence the title.

“We got the idea of writing our own comedy that would be a mockery of conventional comedies.” – Tom Green

The film starts off with a familiar tone, that of many an ’80s teen comedy, with an early scene showing Gord skateboarding through a shopping mall while a security guard chases him. Then his parents wave him goodbye as he leaves home, and then… He stops his car by a farm, runs up to a horse, grabs its erect penis and starts jerking it vigorously! How many ’80s comedies provide such a sight? Right there, you know if this movie is for you. Unsurprisingly, many people aren’t interested in a picture featuring interspecies hand-jobs.

For instance, if you look it up on Rotten Tomatoes, you’ll see that “Freddy Got Fingered” has received nearly nothing but brutally negative reviews. To many a film reviewer, it seems this is the bottom of the barrel and then some. James Berardinelli wrote that he has “gotten better entertainment value from a colonoscopy”. Owen Gleiberman not only panned the movie but went on to write that Green had “a hyperactive computer addict’s stringbean body, a wimp’s receding profile (his goatee seems to be shouting, “I know I’m here to fill out this guy’s loser face!”), and the rabid, staring eyes of a deranged lizard.” It culminated with the film “winning” five Razzie awards, including Worst Picture of 2001.

Well, I beg to differ. Yes, Tom Green’s directorial debut is juvenile, vulgar, generally sloppily crafted, offensive and thoroughly idiotic. Then again, it’s one the most hilarious movies I’ve seen in recent years, and Green is rivetingly grotesque. Critic Roger Ebert loathed the film but accurately described it as a “milestone of neo-surrealism”. Indeed, for every gross-out scene involving a bloody deer carcass or whatnot, we get delightfully absurd moments like Green playing keyboards with strung up sausages or the “backwards man”.

I truly believe writer-director-star Tom Green has done something special here. Even if you don’t find his humor funny, his film is still spectacularly offbeat. There’s all this weird and weirder stuff that keeps happening. But then again, it actually holds itself, there IS a story. A nice story, about a man-child who wants to be an artist but whose ambitions are squashed by his father, who wants him to quit dreaming and get a job. There’s even a love story, and it’s actually sweet how Betty inspires Gordy to not give up. Of course, all this generally degenerates into insanity, but this is a Tom Green movie after all!

“It was vaguely autobiographical and vaguely nonsensical at the same time. The main character is a small-town boy from Oregon, not Canada, who tries to prove himself to his dad by coming to L.A. to make it as an animator, not a comedian.” – Tom Green

Another thing that’s notable is how personal a film this is. On the DVD commentary, Green talks about how he really does love skateboarding and flipping creamers (!) and how he had to move back into his parents’ basement when he was struggling to find a way to get paid to be stupid.

Green is an artist. At least, you can’t deny he has a wild imagination. The things he does with his voice, his body, his face… Or, going back to his screenplay, it’s hard to fathom how he can come up with bits of dialogue like this particularly zesty one, from a scene where Gordy tells his mom she deserves better than his dad: “If I were you, I would show him that I deserve respect. If I were you I would go out, I’d have sex with strange men, I’d have sex with basketball players. I’d have sex with Greeks, men from Greece.”

Here’s a rather classic scene, the son telling his mother she doesn’t have to put up with her abusive husband, yet look how Green goes out on a tangent way into too-much-information territory!

That back and forth between sentimental and bizarre, which goes on through the whole picture, is what does it for me. Like, when Gord delivers a baby, cuts the umbilical cord with his teeth then swings the poor little bastard around in circles, that’s just the set-up. Where it gets hilarious is when it cuts to the heartfelt aftermath, with touchy-feely music on the soundtrack, the mother crying and Gord saying, “I saved the day… I saved the day.”

“I wanted to make something where people walked out of the theatre saying, “What the fuck was that?” – Tom Green

Mission accomplished, sir! The many people who hate the movie and the few, like me, who love it all agree on one thing: this is one hell of a weird flick.