What’s in a name? Let’s face it, Douchebag is an attention-getting title. It’s just short of calling your movie Asshole but getting away with it. That’s cool and transgressive and all, but if you’re going to pull a stunt like that, the movie that results should earn the title it used to bring people in. Calling a movie Douchebag suggests a certain anti-authoritarian sense of humor, but it doesn’t entirely work if the title doesn’t sit just right. Which it doesn’t, in this case. That doesn’t mean that the movie itself is uninteresting – hardly, in fact – just that it might have made a little more sense under a different name.
“Douchebag,” in the pejorative sense of the word, is a term that describes an arrogant guy who irritates other people in a way that may not even be intentional. He dresses and acts in a way that is obnoxious more to the sensible, sensitive, “normal” guys around him, who can’t comprehend how he isn’t entirely ostracized by the rest of society, particularly by pretty women. Ashton Kutcher is a douchebag. Dane Cook is a douchebag. Sean “Puffy” Combs is a douchebag. DJ Pauly D from Jersey Shore is a douchebag. Any guy who cites The Boondock Saints as a favorite movie is a douchebag. This isn’t me casting aspersions on the talent or personality of these guys (which clearly varies) – I’m just telling you that if you do an internet search for “famous douchebags,” these are literally some of the guys whose pictures come up.
Those aren’t the kind of people you will see in the movie Douchebag. All of the characters in this movie, and there really aren’t many – in a refreshing change from mainstream-movie fare, Douchebag is really a three-hander, a simple story about a couple main characters and the peripheral characters that they encounter sparingly. We first meet Sam (Andrew Dickler) and his fiancée Steph (Marguerite Moreau), who seem to be your nice normal Silver Lake/Echo Park couple – they’re hipsters, basically – who interact sweetly and comfortably. She brings up the thorny issue of why Sam won’t invite his estranged brother Tom (Ben York Jones) to their wedding, and even though that doesn’t go over well, she initiates a meeting between the two, which begins very tentatively. Suddenly, Sam makes the impulse decision to make a road trip with Tom to find Tom’s long-lost sweetheart, over Tom’s muted objections. Sam’s maybe not the settled guy we first thought him to be. Tom’s maybe not the troublemaker we were first led to believe.
In Douchebag, the filmmakers (director Drake Doremus and his co-writers) do a nice rope-a-dope. Without revealing too much more: Our expectations are flipped as to who is the character who we might have expected from the outset to be the guy from the title. That was by far my favorite achievement of the movie, the way it finds ways to surprise. It also doesn’t strain to end on a happy note, instead arriving at a more genuine place.
All of the actors are appropriately low-key and recognizably-pitched. Neither of the two male leads really has a face for movies, which is not the nicest thing to say but it’s just a glaring thing when the lead girl is so pretty – when you first meet Sam and Steph in an idyllic moment, their apparent genetic mismatch is the first thing that indicates the story to come.
This is actually a solid little independent movie, with an unpredictable and interesting road trip element – again, my main complaint is that none of these people are truly douchebags. The title Douchebag might lend the movie some needed notoriety, but it’s a small injustice to its main characters, who are ill-described by the word choice. As frustrating and disappointing as some of their behavior might be, they’re just people struggling to figure themselves out. There’s self-awareness here – something that true douchebags never attain.
Douchebag is now playing in New York City and in selected cities nationwide.