Friday night we trekked over to the Valley Life Sciences Building, after hours, to witness the first screening of “Berkeley” in Berkeley. We settled down in the aisle of the over-capacity lecture hall, not really knowing what to expect of the supposed “coming-of-age story” about a guy going to Cal in 1968. Turns out the writer/director himself, Bobby Roth, came all the way from big, bad Hollywood to introduce his little “indie” film. Alas, all we really knew was that the movie was called “Berkeley” and was being shown by Superb–for free. Had we realized that this was the very same, aptly titled, “Berkeley” movie mentioned last year in one of our posts, we might have saved our derriere the pain inflicted by the badly chosen venue’s hard plastic stairs and gone to see a real movie instead. Or maybe not, since it wouldn’t have been free.
Anyway, long story short, we ended up sitting (uncomfortably, mind you) through the entirety of one of the finest perpetuations of the “Berkeley stereotype” to ever kind of hit the big screen. Luckily, the audience seemed to have a good sense of humor and a healthy affinity for irony, because to say that this film was bad would be, frankly, giving it a bit too much credit. Sure, “The Fonz”–Henry Winkler. Duh?–made a decently-acted paternal appearance, and Tom Morello (who we just found out is actually in the band, Audioslave) is present as a reticent ‘Nam vet-cum-activist. We’re reasonably certain the rest of the cast was a bunch of hot amateurs. Case in point–the young protagonist is the director’s recent Berkeley grad of a son, Nick Roth. Who, incidentally, looks like a cross between that guy from “Airbud” and “Transamerica,” and Adrian Grenier. Anyone? Anyone? Alright.
Since both Bobby and Nick Roth are Berkeley alumni, Bobby Roth decided to make a film that bridges the father-son generation gap, grappling with the complex notion that Iraq may really just be another Vietnam. Gee, we haven’t heard that one before. Judging by the overly-simplistic way that Vietnam and student protests were treated in the film, it seems as if Bobby Roth was also trying to tell us, “war is bad because people die.” Oh, and while we’re at it, “damn the man,” “capitalism sucks,” “all you need is love,” and “your parents just want you to have the life they never had.” The originality was truly inspiring, really, it was.
To be fair, though, this movie is pretty entertaining, if you take it as a spoof of movies like “Across the Universe” that try too hard to encompass too much of “Drugs, Sex, and Rock ‘n’ roll” counterculture, or as a satire of the broad stereotypes surrounding our hallowed institution. It also scores points with a Cal student audience because of its “Hey, look! It’s Wheeler! I was there this morning!” factor. In other words, if it were a Berkeley student’s film, we might be impressed, but if you want a nuanced approach to youth in that era we recommend “The Wonder Years.” No joke–Fred Savage rocks our socks.
Unfortunately, we’re not entirely sure whether the director viewed “Berkeley” in the same way his “intended audience” did: with a grain of–OK, with a salt shaker. No one seemed hesitant to laugh, even during what were possibly serious scenes. A trip to IMDB reveals that the film is characterized as “drama.” Whoops. Well, maybe the elder Roth shed some light on the subject during the Question and Answer session that supposedly took place following the screening, but we, um–we couldn’t stay. Yeah, we, uh, had somewhere to be…
Image: Berkeley [Website]
Berkeley the film [Website]
Internet Movie Database [Website]