My Sweet Suicide (My Hero Productions, NR)

dvd suicideMy Sweet Suicide incorporates one film archetype and anticipates another, while making the most of its modest budget and showcasing the talents of the lead actors.

My Sweet Suicide, a 1999 film that enjoyed some success on the festival circuit and achieved limited theatrical distribution, provides an excellent example of the “long-tail” nature of the contemporary entertainment market. In case you’re not up on your statistical theory, the idea (popularized by Chris Anderson) is that, instead of the entertainment market being composed primarily of a few products which sell to huge numbers of people, it includes many different products, each of which sell in relatively small quantities, but which together form the bulk of the market. My Sweet Suicide, now available on DVD, is quintessential long-tail film. It’s a modest little movie without huge mass-market appeal, but a few people will like a whole lot. Thanks to the economics of DVD distribution, they can watch it from the comfort of their homes, while other folks head out to the multiplex to watch the blockbuster of the moment.

The story is about a guy named Kevin (Matthew Aldrich) whose life is not going well—so not-well, in fact, that he decides to kill himself. He’s such a schlump that even his psychiatrist doesn’t try to talk him out of it, but despite being an intelligent guy (he’s an engineer), he can’t seem to get the job done himself. Molly (Michelle Thompson), a perky bookstore clerk who seems to be still living in the flower-power era, offers to help him out, and hires two comically shady characters (Eric Wheeler and Phillip Wofford) to do the job. After several comically absurd failures, Kevin starts to think that maybe he doesn’t want to end his life after all (his developing feelings for Molly have something to do with this decision), but it may not be so easy to call off the hired killers…

My Sweet Suicide incorporates one film archetype and anticipates another, while making the most of its modest budget and showcasing the talents of the lead actors. Molly is a manic pixie dream girl who is all emotion and spontaneity and whose role in the film is to draw the mopey, overly serious, just-doesn’t-know-how-to-enjoy-life male lead out of his shell (Katherine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby, Goldie Hawn in Butterflies Are Free). Kevin is an early version of the Apatowian man-boy who is chronologically an adult but hasn’t grown up emotionally (Steve Carrell in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Seth Rogen in Knocked Up)—although, thankfully, My Sweet Suicide foregoes the vulgarity which is a standard ingredient in the Apatow formula.

My Sweet Suicide takes us inside Kevin’s head—not only does he narrate some of the film, but director David Flanagan also uses music and cinematography to illustrate his thoughts and emotions—and this makes him a much more sympathetic character than my plot summary may suggest. In fact, Kevin does want to join the adult world but doesn’t quite know how; it’s as if someone forgot to give him the rulebook for life, or tore out all the pages beyond the directives to do your job and keep to yourself. Watching this character’s growth over the course of the film is the greatest pleasure in My Sweet Suicide, and if Molly is not granted the depth of characterization, well, that’s what we have come to expect from Hollywood films, and I guess there’s no reason that indie films should be different.

My Sweet Suicide is available online from sources such as amazon.com and thecrippledmasters.com. I recommend checking out the latter, if only because of the many rare DVDs available from the site—it exemplifies the long-tail theory in spades. | Sarah Boslaugh

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