Julian Po (1997)
Julian Po (Christian Slater), who grew a mustache and gained weight for the role) is a 30-year-old bookkeeper and the kind of person best described as human wallpaper. He is generally quiet but for his tape-recorded journal, which functions as the film's narration. Julian Po is planning to end his life, but before doing so he would like to see the ocean. Unfortunately, his car breaks down in a remote small town before he gets there, and he is stranded. The town is as dull and nondescript as he is. Visitors are rare and Julian finds himself gawked at and suspiciously monitored as if he were planning to murder the entire town. In time, the locals pressure him into explaining his purpose for coming to their burg, and he tells them of his plan to end it all. Suddenly, he finds himself the center of attention. People become kindlier and start confessing their darkest sins. Julian is overwhelmed and responds with platitudes. Much to his surprise, he finds himself having a terrific effect on the people who treat him as some sort of messiah. The trouble is, as he becomes accustomed to his new life, and his urge to kill himself abates, something that just may turn the townsfolk against him. Julian Po is a low-key film and certainly marks a major change of pace for Slater, who has heretofore specialized in playing high-energy, mentally unstable characters or action heroes. Billed as a black comedy, its attempts at humorously portraying the residents of the small backwater town borders on cruelty. The townsfolk (in what has become a late-'20th-century movie cliche) are relentlessly quirky and frequently hypocritical. Once again, filmmakers present small-town life as essentially empty and so dull that the chance to witness someone's death becomes an obsession. Children and even adults follow him around eagerly. An old woman opens a betting pool on the exact date in which Julian plans to die. But despite its flaws, Julian Po is still a well-made, engaging exercise -- an antidote, perhaps, to the big-budget, rocket-paced, special-effects-laden thrillride films that characterized 1997. … More
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