Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Look at Tremml and his pretentious use of French words.” Or, maybe you’re thinking, “Who is Will Gluck?” Better yet, maybe you’re thinking, “This looks really long, I’m leaving.” To which I say “FINE!”
Whatever the circumstance for your continued reading, I assure you this post has been brewing in my brain for a few weeks now, and I thank you for your interest in my ridiculous obsession with making far-fetched claims.
First things first, what is an auteur? The French word for ‘author’, auteur theory was developed in 1954 by French filmmaker Francois Truffaut in response to the films of the French New Wave and the writers for French film journal Cahiers du Cinéma. Further enhanced by American movie critics such as Andrew Sarris, Peter Wollen and Pauline Kael, auteur theory has come to represent a means of reading a director’s work by examining their collective body of work rather than focusing on one or two films within their oeuvre.
As Peter Wollen outlines in his essay “The Auteur Theory,” there are two distinct schools of auteur theory. The first places primary interest in revealing a core of meanings or thematic motifs that range across a director’s entire body of work. For example, many of Quentin Tarantino’s films center on themes of revenge, thus leading to his labeling as a modern auteur.
The second school of auteur theory consists of critics honing in on a director’s immediately recognizable technical style of filmmaking. This may include a common camera technique, similar choices in music filling the soundtrack, and even actors that appear from film to film. Wes Anderson fits this type of auteur perfectly with his constant use of straight angles, steady cameras, 1960’s Brit-Pop songs and a repetitive list of actors including Owen Wilson, Bill Murray, and Jason Schwartzman.
So, where does Will Gluck fit into all of this?
It is my argument that Will Gluck is attempting to become an auteur with an emphasis on postmodern pastiche of common cliché-driven Hollywood films. The characters in his films openly mock and even try to rebel against tendencies of mainstream films. However, this awareness of common film tactics goes no further than simple recognition and ultimately succumbs to their powers at the climax of each film, turning into the very items they disapprove of, thus reinforcing their inevitable fate of anonymity. So to, I believe, will go the fate of Mr. Gluck.
Let’s start with his first film Fired Up! Though the film centers on two football jocks that ditch training camp to attend cheerleading camp so they may sleep with as many girls as possible (a true theme for our youth), Mr. Gluck cheerfully reminds us that “this is not a cheerleading movie!” on its cover. The two main characters appear to operate as if they are aware they are in a movie, not doubting their plan for one minute and playfully enjoying an unrealistic portrayal of cheerleading camp. Second, a minor character Dr. Rick openly quotes other movies as part of his character in order to come across as a villain. Finally, furthering the “this is not a cheerleading movie” idea, a scene in which the entire camp is watching perhaps the most famous cheerleading movie, Bring It On, attempts to poke fun at the genre of teenage drama. However, the film slowly progresses into a drama itself, complete with a love story and climactic competition at the conclusion, thus cementing its status as the very thing it claims to oppose. By the end of the film, all of the mocking tendencies have been replaced by genuine portrayals of these elements.
Gluck’s follow-up, the critically acclaimed Easy A, follows a similar path in its attempt for originality despite a familiar plot. With a very loose basing on Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, this film presents the story of a high school girl named Olive who lies about losing her virginity in order to be noticed, and ends up being ostracized for her supposed promiscuity as boys pay her to pretend to sleep with her. Throughout the film, characters complain about typical high school film clichés, climaxing with the Olive’s lament on the death of chivalry. Of course, her idea of chivalry stems from classic 80’s movies (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Say Anything, Can’t Buy Me Love), whose iconic scenes conveniently appear on the screen for the viewers to enjoy. Olive states she wishes her life were more like a John Hughes production, and sadly lingers in the realization of the impossibility of this desire. However, much to the shock of every audience member (not), the film’s conclusion takes the form of a postmodern homage to the films listed above with each being referenced with their own recreation. This eventual granting of Olive’s wish does nothing to separate the film from those which provided its foundation and in fact takes away from its disarming charm and witty dialogue. (Furthermore, if you didn’t enjoy Emma Stone’s performance in this film, congratulations on the successful lobotomy).
This brings us to Gluck’s latest creation, 2011’s Friends With Benefits, the story of two friends who begin sleeping with each other in order to fulfill their sexual needs without the hindering effects of a romantic relationship. Both characters enter the film frustrated with Hollywood’s portrayal of romance and shun their depictions of relationships. While the two watch a fictitious version of a Hollywood romantic comedy, they both pick out indicators of their lack of realism, such as the false depiction of Grand Central Station or the use of uplifting pop songs to trick a viewer into thinking they had a good time. However, as the film unfolds, the two begin to fall in love with each other (shocker) and eventually end up the product of a Hollywood-driven entrance into a relationship. In the climax of the film (and if anyone’s upset that I’m ruining this I honestly doubt you couldn’t really predict the ending), the male plays a nostalgic song from their college years while a flash mob (the second one of the movie) performs around the female in none other than Grand Central Station (this doesn’t sound “Hollywood” at all, does it?). Then, after they kiss, the song critiqued by both of them following the “generic” romantic comedy begins to play, thus reinforcing the very tricks the characters disapproved of at the beginning of the film.
In conclusion, Gluck has begun to employ a familiar set of actors in his films, with double appearances from Emma Stone and Patricia Clarkson, while the themes seem to be centering on sex and its affects on relationships, thus furthering my speculation of his desire to blossom into an auteur. And, as a result, I think I speak for all of us when I say we can’t wait to see which film Mr. Gluck plans to imitate next.