Observe and Report isn’t your typical big budget Hollywood comedy. The audience remains in constant struggle with the film’s humor, unsure of whether or not laughter is intended or appropriate.
However, writer and director Jody Hill says he designed it that way, describing the film as “sad and weird.“
“I was interested in driving a character insane, taking him to the edge of insanity,” Hill said in an interview during a recent college conference call.
Observe and Report follows the sad story of mall security guard Ronnie Barnhardt (Seth Rogen), a young man who takes himself and his job extremely seriously. When a flasher begins indiscriminately assaulting women in the mall parking lot, Ronnie sees the opportunity to impress make-up counter employee Brandi (Anna Faris) with his strong commitment to justice.
Through his determination, the audience sees his struggles with a meddling police officer, his alcoholic mother, his unreliable security team, his mental disorders and his inner battles with right and wrong. Yet, shockingly, most of the movie is hilarious.
“I really tried to use the model of the character piece from the ‘70s,” Hill said. He said he loved the themes of isolation and loneliness he saw in these films and tried to mimic “characters trying to come up with a code [and] feel in place in their time.“
Hill said that when toying with ideas for a script, he tries to focus on a world. For Observe and Report, this world is the mall, a location Hill claims to hate ever since his days as a boy watching his coffee vendor father fight with mall security guards over parking.
The role of Ronnie is different from the role of the likable, carefree boy-man that originally gave Rogen acclaim. As a fan of Rogen since his early work on the show “Freaks and Geeks,” Hill said that he wrote the film’s delusional hero Barnhardt with Rogen in mind for the role. Rogen’s involvement and faith in Observe and Report was the main reason the movie studio agreed to produce a film that defies genre or categorization, Hill added.
“It was a really small, thrown together independent movie – and those are exactly the kind of movies I don’t like,” Rogen said.
When asked why he signed onto the film, Rogen answered, “It was just really funny.” He said he approaches making movies as a movie fan, and Observe and Report appealed to that side of him.
Co-star Anna Faris, however, plays a role that many fans of hers will recognize. Brandi, the Ronnie-using, bad decision-making melodramatic love interest of Observe and Report, is “the kind of girl we all know a little bit,” Faris described.
“It was so fun to be so bad,” Faris said.
Though Hill had a very specific vision for each of the characters, Faris was responsible for Brandi’s memorable look of long nails and black clothes “because she thinks it’s sophisticated,” Faris said.
When looking at scripts, Faris said that she looks for “a whole new interesting wave of comedy” and whether or not she “gets to stretch [her] legs a little bit.“
Hill said he hopes the audience thinks about the movie after they leave the theater.
“We praise [Ronnie] certainly in the movie, but how real is that praise and what exactly are we praising? I hope that’s the issue the audience grapples with and kind of talks about,” he said.
“Whatever people take from the movie is what they take from it. I don’t have a certain agenda,” Hill added.
Observe and Report will open Friday at Regal Davis Stadium 5 on G Street.
LAURA KROEGER can be reached at email@example.com.