These fads get going somehow. An original movie makes money and the board room full of MBAs get together and try to figure out how quickly they can imitate it. In 1975 it was "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" the first "cult movie. It was an original and was shortly followed by a couple of films that deliberately tried to cash in on its cult aspects. They weren't underground cult movies, mind you, but they faked the same qualities. "Platoon" hit a nerve too, the first movie the Suits dared to endorse that dealt with the horrors of Viet Nam. Several others followed. David Lynch's "Blue Velvet" was startlingly original too and its influence showed up all over the place. There was even a skin flick version of it, with some fat hairy guy munching on a strip of blue velvet belt while doing unspeakable things to somebody else. Then there was "Saving Private Ryan, and "Band of Brothers" and "Wind Talkers" and the rest, showing an excess of misery and much delightful gore.
"The Paint Job" followed "Blue Velvet" by a few years and it shows. The story is filled with gratuities and non sequiturs. Somebody is in a shop staring at the street through the plate glass window. Half a dozen men pass down the sidewalk carrying the legs of mannequins (or prosthetic devices or something) upside down. a small forest of plastic feet. They stop at the window for a moment, one of them taps on the glass with a phony foot, then they walk away. What does it mean, you ask? I don't know. What is the meaning of life? Why can't we remove that dammed tab from the mattress without being arrested? Why does hail always have to be the size of something else?
The dialogue is just as quirky. Will Patton, a small-town house painter, falls in love with his boss's wife. He sits at a table in a bar with his boss and two fellow painters. Patton. You ever been in love. Colleague: Oh, yes. It's too much to go through except every three or four years." Boss. It hurts in the back of the neck. Patton. I think I got it bad." Colleague. Get rid of it. Go to a movie. but only a movie that's got "blood" or "death" in the title. Then you come out and do something real intricate, maybe build a geodesic dome. Otherwise she's going to get to you somehow. Boss. Oh, yeah. He sticks his tongue in your ear and that's it. Long pause while no one looks at the boss, then. Colleague: Huh. Something like that.
The story itself is just as illogical. Patton's boss sounds like a nice, easy-going reasonable guy but Patton begins to think he may be a few clowns short of a circus so he begins to follow the boss around, lingering in the hallways of strange hotels and flophouses and listening to what goes on in the room the boss has just entered. He overhears his boss murdering some guy. So what does he do? Well. you can be certain he doesn't run to the police. Instead, as time passes, he continues to follow his boss through alleys and up and down staircases and listening to yet more murders until the boss discovers what Patton's been doing and there is a slam-bang fight with cans of paint. I was grateful for one of the original touches. After Patton wallops his boss with a can and the boss collapses unconscious, or maybe dead, he does NOT leap up from the floor a minute later, full of vim and vigor.
The director has everyone play out this unlikely scenario by shuffling through it. People speak quietly, matter-of-factly. Except for Bebe Neuwirth, the boss's wife, who's function in the plot is obscure as the plot itself. br> On the plus side, the acting is pretty good. The performers deliver their lines after rather long pauses, but they make them believable. Will Patton is especially admirable. He wears his usual look of wide-eyed wonder and it works here. Well, it works in ALL of his movies because underneath that layer of polite puzzlement he is able to insert some element of other things going on but not expressed. jealousy, insanity, stupidity. He's been excellent in just about everything he's appeared in, a solid actor. And the production design is outstanding. The interior of those flop houses is out of your meanest nightmares.
Should you see this? Well, yeah, why not? It's slow at times but the dialogue is often funny. In addition the movie is an historical curiosity in its relationship to David Lynch. And that paint-can finish in which the rooms and people wind up looking like the results of some demonic coupling of the flags of Germany and Mexico.
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