Clean Slate Reviews
Just saw this on HBO, and I had to keep watching because it was so unusual. Sure, "Memento" flashed through my mind, and it was clear this was supposed to be a send-up of film noirs as well. But the movie, an odd and uneven amalgam of noir-homage, comedy, and mystery, was original in its own right.
The comedic element to the movie was mild, and almost exclusively based on Carvey's reactions to not knowing what's going on almost the entire movie. The comedy scenes were chucklers, never guffaw-worthy. And though I kept expecting Carvey to break into SNL wackiness, he underplays his opportunities for laughs, with only a hint of twinkle in his eye: he's clearly playing a leading man here, which is not what I expected. But he acquits himself fairly well. Plus, I remember Ms. Golino from having a crush on her in "Rain Man;" she's quite luminous here. And you'll recognize Kevin's older sister from "The Wonder Years" in a small femme-fatale role.
To me, what made the movie was how we are plunged into the "what the heck is going on" perspective along with Carvey. Until he falls asleep, we know only what he knows, and in essence, we as the audience are experiencing the same confusion he is. Directorially, that concept was very well created. Once he wakes up, it's "50 First Dates" from a first-person perspective instead of "Memento," and yet the film retains most of its mystery and modest appeal.
All in all, the film was...well, interesting, and diverting, even involving, until the denouement, which after the interesting set-up, ends too quickly, and left me wanting more twists. But I noticed one critic said it's guaranteed that you will forget it by the next morning, a review pullquote that apes the film's concept. Well, I was thinking about it the next morning...thinking how it could have been changed to elevate it from good to great. And it's rare that I think about that after a movie is over, and generally it's only with a movie that's pretty darned good ("Broadcast News" comes to mind--man, how to change those last ten minutes...) Be clear: "Clean Slate" is not "Broadcast News," not even in the same universe. But it's watchable, and for sure it's better than 19%. So if it comes on, try it for a few minutes: I'm confident you'll be pleasantly surprised.