“This isn’t about you, asshole.” It’s a line we hear on a pretty frequent basis (give or take an expletive), and it’s very, very problematic. When confronted with their own, tragic insignificance in the context of the vast expanses of time and space, people are prone to suss themselves out as the center of the universe. You’ve only ever seen been inside your own head, so surely you’re the only one who’s actually really there? We regress to the small picture because we can’t comprehend the big one – that pothole in the middle of your street is a result of fascism; you and that girl you like are destined for one another; that demo you recorded on your iPhone will make you a star. So many of us live in our own little, self-absorbed bubbles, and it’s just like David Cross to come along and burst them.
Most well known for his incendiary stand-up (for reference, one of his more famous live CDs is entitled Shut Up You Fucking Baby) and his turn as the delightfully awkward Tobias Funke in Arrested Development, Cross is notoriously cutting when it comes to the slightly less intelligent corners of Western society. Hits, his debut feature, pours this vitriol in glorious, nihilistic buckets all over a set of characters so despicably self-absorbed, that it’s marginally horrifying to consider that people like this actually exist.
This is America at its most depressing – a multi-stranded story of small-town anybodies who see themselves destined for various arrays of bizarre, pathetic “significance.” Ranging from a slightly unhinged man’s war against his local councilwoman; to his fame-obsessed sprog, convinced she was born to appear on Ellen; to a group of Brooklyn hipsters looking to create a (and I use the term very sarcastically) “social revolution.” Imagine your classic, multi-stranded Iñárritu-styled ensemble piece, only packed with utter, hate-filled contempt for every single character dumb enough to step in front of the lens.
We live in a world where frequently stopping to take pointless pictures of yourself is considered normal, we live in a world where there are TV shows about pregnant teenagers – we may not approve of these things, but they are undeniably there, and boy is Cross pissed off about it. He takes to the Apple-consuming masses with the force and delicacy of a sledgehammer. Occasional flashes of humanity are counterpointed by waves of tragi-comic idiocy too awful to mention, and situations so hilariously excruciating you’re never sure whether to laugh, cry or curl up into a ball and reassess humanity. This is a film that’ll be adored by those who prefer watching a comedian demolish a heckler to their actual stand up. It’s the dramatic equivalent of watching a car crash in slow-motion – yes it’s horrible, yes things are about to get very nasty, but do you really want to look away?
With Bobcat Goldthwait easing off the cinematic throttle in recent years, the grumpy moaners of the world need a new vitriolic champion, and Cross takes to the role with aplomb – most people really aren’t going to find Hits agreeable, but as a seasoned armchair cynic myself, I was all but set to love it from the start. That said, it very much requires a taste for what I like to call The Comedy of the Uncomfortable – fans of World’s Greatest Dad and Shakes the Clown will love it, but pretty much everyone else won’t get it one jot.
For its acquired audience though, Hits offers a wealth of the deadpan, snarling comedy that has become their daily bread and butter. The humor is both observational and gloriously nihilistic, and it all climaxes in one of the most fantastically batshit insane scenes I have witnessed in a long, long time.
Reality bites, but Cross wants it to bite even harder. This may be a work of fiction, but the commentary is there and the commentary is justified. We are the internet generation: Nobody cares if you were there, you need a photo, or maybe three, so you can post them online and prove that you were there first. Is there any higher power that cares whether you came across the next viral video before everyone else? No, of course not, but somewhat worryingly, the rest of us do. As a damning indictment of the 140 Character or Less generation and the alienated parents who raised them, Cross’ debut makes brilliantly uncomfortable viewing. It takes a specific kind of person to thoroughly enjoy Hits, and I – somewhat worryingly – am one of them.
For armchair cynics and Bobcat Goldthwait acolytes, Hits is the perfect film to scratch that vitriolic itch.