Holy caca! Slipstream, Anthony Hopkins’s first film behind the camera since 1996’s August, is a lunatic paroxysm of stylistic excess, peripheral ideas, and disconnected scenes. The director’s modus operandi: When in doubt, run your dailies through a high-speed blender. Hopkins either wants to show us what his vomit used to look like after an all-night binge, or he wants to show David Lynch that he’s been keeping up with his career ever since The Elephant Man. Indeed, if this were a sonata, it would be called “Mulholland Drive in Oliver Stone Flat”: Dialogue repeats, characters often shape-shift, scenes rewind and flash forward (often playing out before rear projections), the sound rises and the color drops, a Native American waves hello, and famous faces from our political and pop-cultural memory bank make not-so-subliminal appearances (Richard Nixon, Adolf Hitler, Bette Davis—together at last!). In short, avant-garde crapola.
So, what da dealio? After a Nixon-y day at the races with some dumb blonde prone to punctuationless exclamations (“That’s Lily she’s from Russia she’s my new best friend!”), screenwriter Felix Bonhoeffer (Hopkins) doesn’t bat an eye when a crazy man takes a shot at him in the middle of a traffic jam. Is the old man high or drunk…maybe both? Never mind that. Cut to dumb blonde getting a call from her best gal pal, who tells the would-be actress that she’s on the television news. Yaaaaaaaaaaay, Hollywood here she comes! Cut to best gal pal, who is possibly Felix’s wife, and Fionnula Flanagan (totally channeling Diane Ladd), arriving at some bumblefuck diner in the desert where Christian Slater and Jeffrey Tambor kill Michael Clarke Duncan out back, after which they get into their yellow-no-pink-no-yellow-no-pink-yes-yellow hot rod, enter the diner, insult S. Epatha Merkerson’s left tata, and take everyone hostage. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh! But wait! The camera pulls back to reveal a camera framing the scene. A film-within-a-film? Shit, ya’ll, Sir Anthony mutha-fucking Hopkins just broke the fourth wall and punked our stupid asses!
Blaring its pretense to Lynch-ness, Slipstream crumbles under the weight of Hopkins’s self-indulgence, yet there is some measure of sincerity to this senseless upchuck. In one scene, Felix asks a Dolly Parton lookalike what her name is, to which she responds, “Dolly Parton Lookalike.” This silly-goose moment is, for Hopkins, a confession: I’m an avant-garde poseur! Later, John Turturro, producer of the film-within-Slipstream, makes a game attempt at sinking lower than Transformers: Dude screams, yaks on a cellphone whose headpiece wire has been severed, appears inside Felix’s computer to scream some more, insults a baby, and waves to…Michael Lerner? All this just to bring the film back to Barton Fink? Seriously, Ant, what gives here?
Like Felix, Hopkins essentially creates as he goes along, and his ambition (or lack thereof) boggles the mind. Finally, the “Nearer, Father, Nearer” video from Ghost World stretched to feature length! Felix has a stroke, runs down a hospital hallway [insert sound of flash-bulb ping from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies], gets a visit from the script girl he killed the night before (“Now you don’t have any continuity,” she says!) while driving one of the actors from the 1956 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers to Las Vegas, and someone says something to the effect that the jackass who wrote this thing did it for a laugh. Yup, that explains everything.