What is this shit?
I believe that sentence best sums up my general reaction to Mark Ruffalo’s directorial debut, Sympathy For Delicious. The film isn’t just a terrible movie, it’s a terrible movie that completely squanders a fascinating central premise: a wheelchair bound homeless atheist suddenly gets the power to heal, but he cannot heal himself. There are so many places to go with that, but the place that Ruffalo decides to go is… the guy uses his powers to become the turntablist in a rock band.
Like I said, what is this shit?
Sympathy For Delicious is a movie that goes from ‘Reasonable’ to ‘Bad’ to ‘Groaningly Bad’ to ‘I’m Seriously Thinking of Walking Out On This’ to ‘Hilariously Awful’ to ‘Was This All A Prank, Because There’s No Way You Made a Movie This Bad By Accident.’ Imagine if Tommy Wiseau had basic cinematic competence and you’re beginning to see the depths of terrible I’m talking here.
What’s the worst part of Sympathy For Delicious? That’s tough, because there’s so much bad. Is it is the patently phony feeling music scene where Juliette Lewis is an up and coming young rock star? Is it Orlando Bloom giving the single worst fake British accent despite the fact that he himself is British? Is it the fact that not one of the decisions made by the characters makes a lick of sense? Is it the fact that motivations given to characters in the third act do not match up with the motivations shown earlier? Is it the fact that the script barley gives any thought to the implications and impacts of a man doing mass healings on LA’s Skid Row?
I think for me it’s the fact that nobody’s decisions make sense that bugs me. Ruffalo appears as a priest on Skid Row who was working with our hero, ‘Delicious’ Dean, before he got his powers. Dean is played by Christopher Thornton, who wrote the film, and who is actually paralyzed from the waist down. Living in his car, Dean is angry and troubled and the sudden appearance of this power seems to be a way out of poverty, but Ruffalo’s character bizarrely denies Dean any money, despite collecting thousands in donations from people seeking healings. It’s totally arbitrary – ‘I can’t pay you for doing the Lord’s work,’ the priest, who is being paid at least a stipend of some sort as well as getting room and board for doing the Lord’s work, says. The decision to add Delicious to Bloom’s band (his character is named The Stain, and everybody always calls him The Stain. Never just Stain) is also mystifying. As is the music the band itself plays.
Most of the performances are awful, with Ruffalo being one of the few bright lights. But again, he’s playing a character who makes little or no sense and whose work with a bona fide, provable healer seems to elicit no interest from the higher powers of the Church. Noah Emmerich is particularly horrible as a really sunshiney cripple guy who wants to get Delicious to come to Jesus. He has a hilarious last scene, set during the part of the movie when everything has gone over the edge into ‘Laughably Bad’ territory.
I will give Sympathy For Delicious credit for surprisingly me plotwise, as it keeps making strange and unpredictable and entirely unsatisfying left turns in the story. They may not make a lot of sense, and they may not be handled particularly well, but they’re surprising. I just wish that someone had sat down with Thornton and asked him what the fuck all this DJ and rock band shit was doing in his movie. I don’t know that Sympathy For Delicious ever would have been particularly good, but the music elements are what make it absolutely fucking horrible.
2 out of 10