Tuesday, January 15, 2013

It's Such a Beautiful Day

IT’S SUCH A BEAUTIFUL DAY (Don Hertzfeldt, 2012)

Basic techniques yield complex results in Don Hertzfeldt’s hand-drawn animated and mixed media epic IT’S SUCH A BEAUTIFUL DAY.  The feature film is comprised of three shorts (EVERYTHING WILL BE OK, I AM SO PROUD OF YOU, and IT’S SUCH A BEAUTIFUL DAY) in which Bill, a stick figure everyman, wrestles with existential despair, health problems, and a family history of mental illness.

Underneath IT’S SUCH A BEAUTIFUL DAY’s simple surface and droll humor is a philosophical core as dense as any film’s.  Hertzfeldt’s trenchant examination of the human condition cuts to the essence of what keeps people awake at nights and occupies our minds in those moments when the noise and distractions of everyday life are quieted.  Bill frets over germs in the produce aisle and awkward social interactions.  He also dwells on what could be a wasted life and the death that will all too quickly end it at some unknown point.

Although Bill expends untold neurotic energy on the things he can’t control, IT’S SUCH A BEAUTIFUL DAY also acknowledges the exquisite blessings surrounding us that often go unnoticed until circumstances force appreciation for even the tiniest marvel.  As the put-upon protagonist gains compassion for the people in his past and the answer to the meaning of life, Hertzfeldt transforms sorrow and existential agitation into triumphant acceptance of life in its entirety, including its culmination.  To put it in the film’s comedically askew terms, what’s the use in worrying about contracting a fatal disease when there’s always the chance of getting run over by a train.   

Rather than emphasizing a nihilistic streak, the bittersweet tone of IT’S SUCH A BEAUTIFUL DAY comforts with the assurance that everyone shares these fears and doubts.  The stripped-down style enhances identification with Bill and permits subtle expressiveness to be interpreted in his reactions.  Hertzfeldt’s acerbically funny and deeply moving experimental film does a lot with a little.  

Grade: B+

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