Emile (Kent Osborne) is a pretty humble guy. He just wants one simple thing out of his life: for it to be just as picture-perfect as the TV. The opiate of the masses known as television is Emile's drug of choice as he wanders through the world of the nicotine-stained San Fernando Valley. Everything is, as in the television, just fine and dandy until one day a squirrel lands on Emile's cable, disconnecting it. So, confronted with an absolute dearth of television reception, Emile decides to slit his wrists.
From there on in, we enter into one of the funniest and most meaningful dark comedies since Happiness. You see; Emile's suicide attempt is interrupted by a call from the manager of a hotel, at which Emile begins to work the night shift. One night, after the local supermarket is out of chicken potpies, Emile announces to Henry (David Koechner), his co-worker, that he wants to commit suicide. He also requests that Henry will send the tape to Emile's ex-girlfriend and clean up after the act.
Henry decides to bring in Andrew , a Hollywood wannabe to help him with the mess, only to discover that Emile has repeatedly flubbed what he wanted to say to his girlfriend. Andrew, upon looking at these flubs, begins turning Emile's suicide into a full blown documentary. Pretty soon, everyone is in on it. The entire hotel staff has quit their jobs to be on the production crew of the film. A major Hollywood studio has signed on to pay for trailers for Emile and the crew... not to mention provide 35mm cameras (rather than Mini-DV, the format that Andrew had originally been using).
Of course, since Emile's entire desire to end his life was because his life wasn't like the movies, Emile must now deal with the desire to live... and his so-called friends' reactions if he does.
Premise alone could carry this movie to side splitting laughter from a college or teenager target audience, and premise serves to provide for some of the darkest lowbrow comedy I have ever seen (i.e. Henry draws a diagram on the correct way to slit one's wrists while Emile helps a terrified hotel patron check out), but the script has some more surprises in store for us.
The film takes every opportunity to scathe the Hollywood system, to boost the power of the Independent revolution, and to take on America's obsession with fake reality (better known as "reality based television shows"). The maxim "if it bleeds, it leads" is especially prevalent when, at one point, the studio pressures Andrew to ensure that Emile actually not only goes through with the suicide, but also provides Andrew with a gun for Emile to use.
Beyond this absolute mastery over the narrative, director Mark Osborne (who did the Academy-Award nominated short More) serves up a technically brilliant film. Making use of the same tactics as Blue Velvet and Happiness, Osborne over-lights sequences in which Emile imagines his television world in order to make them especially removed from reality, and then under-lights the "reality" so that it takes on a nicotine-stained quality. He switches from slow-motion to regular time with absolute ease, giving the impression at times that we are watching an extremely sick and twisted version of a Nuclear family TV show.
The fact of the matter is that Dropping Out is one of those films so absolutely great that everything you end up saying is either clichéd or repetitive. The performances were great. The direction was great. The script was great. The entire damn film was great. It is a must-see. It is brilliant. It is all of the other spiels that a critic says when they are forced to make blurbs and sound intelligent, and when all they really want to do is convince someone to go and see it.
Down and Out.