Director: Kevin Tent
Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Thomas Haden Church, Christina Applegate, Nina Dobrev, Dan Gill
MPAA Rating: (for strong crude sexual content, language, some nudity, drug use and alcohol abuse)
Running Time: 1:33
Release Date: 10/27/17 (limited)
Review by Mark Dujsik | October 26, 2017
Stensland (Domhnall Gleeson), the protagonist of Crash Pad, is a whiny, pathetic guy who, at 29, seems incapable of doing anything of worth with his life. By the end of the first act, he has spent a week pining over a married woman, whom he met and with whom he had sex over the course of two days. He has wiped his nether region (the rear one, for those who are curious) on the pants of the woman's husband. He is fired from his job at an antiques store, because he decides to take an unannounced "leave" from work for his emotional distress. The inciting incident of the story has him storming into the woman's workplace, trying to convince her to take him back, and, that approach having failed, attempting to blackmail her. He's not a particularly likeable guy, to say the least.
That's kind of, sort of the point, except that the movie seems to believe we'll pity him enough to find him pathetically endearing. After all, he's a romantic, who shoots down his roommate's (played by Dan Gill) advice that he should look at this experience as a positive. It was sex with no strings attached. "I want strings," Stensland cries, proceeding to explain how he desperately wants a girlfriend.
He thought Morgan (Christina Applegate), the married woman, was the one. His evidence is the sex, of course, but it's also that she held his hand at one point when they weren't in bed. Here's a guy with expectations that are far too high and standards that are far too low. It's little wonder that he spends that week smoking pot and watching a teen soap opera.
He needs help, and it comes in the unlikely form of Morgan's husband, a busy lawyer named Grady (Thomas Haden Church). Stensland makes the call to tell Grady that his wife cheated on him, but Morgan already has told him. Grady threatens to hunt down Stensland and kill him. Soon enough, the lawyer shows up in Stensland's apartment with a pistol.
These are strange ways for Jeremy Catalino's screenplay to introduce the main characters: one shown as a guy who has what's basically a temper tantrum, because a woman he just met doesn't want to see him again, and the other as a potential murderer. Grady doesn't kill him, of course. He just wants to scare Stensland, and he does: Stensland ends up with urine pouring down the front of his shorts and something else in the back of them. The husband takes pity on his wife's short-time lover and sees an opportunity for revenge.
The setup is that Grady decides to live with Stensland, paying the rent and utility bills for the apartment, and the two will live it up at bars, clubs, and anywhere else where women and alcohol are plenty. Taking time away from his marriage and career, Grady will teach Stensland how to be a man, and he'll also take the opportunity to have his own, short-lived affair with a random woman he meets at one of those places.
At this point, the movie swaps its view of women from unattainable things that a nice guy deserves to objects that only exist for a man's pleasure, if he can play a game of flirtation with them in the right way. We have to start wondering which of these two guys is the more obnoxious: Stensland with his hopeless romantic shtick or Grady with his playboy mentality. At least the two performances of these characters are solid, with Gleeson going full speed with a near-manic portrayal of Stensland and with Church doing some fine deadpan as the casually sexist Grady. Applegate plays Morgan with more relatability and resolve than her male counterparts, but that's offset by Hannah, Morgan's assistant played by Nina Dobrev. She sees through Stensland's nice-guy routine, which means it's only inevitable before she ignores it for a final moment between the two characters.
The point might not be to like either of these main characters, but it is, at least, to understand them. We can enough, if we buy into the absurdity of the movie's premise, but there's a better, more fundamental question: Do we really want to understand either of these guys? Crash Pad tries to give a good reason, by showing Stensland change his level of confidence and revealing a level of vulnerability within Grady. Considering how much the movie buys into their respective personalities and behaviors before that, though, it's too little too late.
Copyright © 2017 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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