Next on my playlist during this miserable Indie Comedy Day (because what else are you going to do with a migraine and construction right outside besides watch people more miserable than you get a weird/happy ending? ) was Armless. It’s pretty easy to guess what the movie is about based of the title: having no arms, but pretty quickly we find out that it’s not that no one in the movie has arms. Rather it’s that the main character, John Willard, wants to cut his arms off and have “nubbins.”
Now reading reviews on Netflix and IMBD are pretty, well, harsh. Comments about the bad directions, the no flow script, and just the horrible writing is most of what you’ll find there. Here, however, I’m asking you take a step back and think about life: life is awkwardly situated with boring characters and crazy characters that all tend to be self-centered and distant, especially when harboring a secret or when scared. This movie gives you the real life of it. The mom who’s too open and constantly lying, the wife who’s so wrapped up in her own anxieties she has trouble just being there for her husband, the husband who just wants to suffer because he believes that with all his good life must come something bad as well, and the doctor who’s spent so much time on appearances and money that he just wants to be something he’s not: exciting. So when I see people saying that this movie is bad, I wonder if they expected something more mainstream like Lars and The Real Girl which seems to be written for a more general audience. You know, the people who want a feel good comedy. Armless is not a feel good comedy.
In fact, it’s barely a comedy. People even complain in the reviews when it starts to show comedy, saying messes with the tone of the movie or something like that, but Armless is seemingly more about showing the reality. In reality the jokes we make are not necessarily appropriately timed and this movie reflects that. Which is one of the reasons I give it props: we’ve all had doctors try to joke to connect with us and we’ve all just stared at them blankly as if to say, “You’re a doctor. Not Bozo the Clown, get on with it already” or family member/friend tell us inappropriate things about their sex life thinking that it would be helpful when really it just makes us cringe and shudder every time we see that waffle maker (Don’t ask, don’t tell: really it should be every one’s motto about sex). The fact is the reason it’s funny is because we understand the uncomfortableness of the situations.
So, Armless may not be every one’s cup of tea. Most of us don’t like watching painfully awkward moments that close to real life, but I enjoyed the depth of the characters and the real feeling of the disconnect between the main character and those he loves. Besides, who can’t relate to A) feeling like something horrible is going to happen to balance out a wonderful life and just wanting it to happen now instead of later, B) that we aren’t normal and should have a way to show it, and C) that we need some type of painful weight lifted off of us. I can’t say you’ll like this movie, but sometimes it’s not about liking a movie. It’s about connecting with another part of ourselves.