348 – Bug

I can’t possibly give this movie the rating it truly deserves. This is one of those movies that fools you into thinking it’ll be a pretty decent film, only to not only not be decent but to be hands-down one of the worst movies of the year. If I had a rating system of one to ten, with ten being the best, Bug would rate at about a negative infinity. But perhaps I’m being a little harsh on it unnecessarily.

Bug is about a stereotypical lonely midwestern woman who lives in a crappy, run-down motel in the middle of Nowheresville, Oklahoma. She has the standard crazy ex-husband who’s just been released from jail and the standard lesbian best friend who works with her at the honkytonk cowboy bar down the road a piece. Agnes (Ashley Judd) is kind, considerate, saucy, sassy, and gorgeous. Agnes is supposed to be sort of broken down; she has just her one friend R.C. (Lynn Collins) and doesn’t like to party – although she does snort her share of the cocaine. Still and all, she seems like a right nice sort, although in typical Lifetime movie of the week fashion she’s instantly cowed by her psychotic ex (Harry Connick, Jr.).

One day R.C. brings over a guy she found at their bar, Peter (Michael Shannon), a man who seems even more distant and unsure of himself than the lovely Agnes. Peter takes to her, and she to he, despite not knowing a damn thing about him. He has no home, no car, no nothing. Dude’s not even handsome, like her ex. But there’s something kindly, if off-putting about Peter; he seems to listen, you know, care. Chicks dig it if you fake caring about them, you see. At any rate, Agnes lets him spend the night, chastely on the couch.

But it quickly transpires that Peter’s not all there. He’s a former war vet, and he’s a little batty about bugs. Sees them everywhere. Once, in the middle of the night, he insists he’s been bitten by an aphid and tears the bed apart looking for it. When he does find it, though, Agnes can’t see it. No one can see it. You know why? Because it’s not there. That doesn’t stop Peter from bitching about it. The next day, he’s spread flystrips all over the motel room. Oh, and somehow gotten a hold of a microscope, the better to look at slides containing his own blood. You know, normal stuff.

Now, you or I might think, “Hey, Peter’s whacked from being tested with drugs by sinister Army doctors!” and that he clearly needs some freaking medical attention. R.C. points out to Peter that aphids don’t bite, and he in turn accuses her of selling him out to The Man. And of course, at that point, as you might predict, Agnes goes crazy at her friend, screaming at her that she’s trying to take away the only thing Agnes has left in her life, and yadda yadda yadda, and it all ends with a classic line of “Get out of here! And don’t you ever come back!”

Knowing that logic has been jettisoned might actually help the viewer here, because plainly a lot of stuff here just isn’t meant to make any sense. It’s a screenwriter’s crutch, really, having a character be so completely off the wall that one can’t relate at all. Peter goes from being simply creepy (and, it should be noted, not someone a fragile, single woman should ever allow into her home) to certifiable in the wink of an eye. Much worse, though, is that Agnes goes from being intelligent and romantic to being… well, really, really dumb. Suddenly nothing she says contains one iota of smarts. It’s as if Peter’s enormous head (seriously, go look at Michael Shannon) was sucking all the brains out of Agnes. Or she sucked the crazy out of him. Because, come to think of it, she wasn’t loopy until after she slept with him.

I have to wonder, though, if this movie is supposed to be ironic. Because it’s loaded, absolutely chock full, of seemingly unintentional comedy. Here’s an actual line. Actual line, mind you: “Agnes! Tell me what you don’t know!” I am the dumber for having typed those words. Watching this movie is like being hit repeatedly about the skull with a blunt instrument. It’s badly written – this stuff wouldn’t make sense on paper, why would it make sense in a movie? – terribly acted, and an overall embarrassment. One plus: Judd is naked for quite a bit of time, rare for such a high-caliber actress.

*

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