Kevin Smith’s ‘Red State’ Review and Q & A Session

Sunday night Dianne and I went to a screening of Red State at the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles.

RED STATE at the new beverly cinema

After the screening of the movie, we were graced with a Question and Answer session from the man himself; Mr. Kevin Smith. The whole night was a great experience, especially since this was the second time Dianne and I got to see Kevin Smith in person together. The first time was the farewell event for Secret Stash. I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with a lovely sense of nostalgia.

RED STATE at the new beverly cinema

Movie Review: Red State is a triumph. It is the first time Kevin Smith has done a movie so different from his usual style. According to Sir, the movie was influenced by Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Brothers and I could certainly see it. Visually, the movie was very cinema vérité (AKA shaky cam, think Bourne Supremacy) which, as the viewer, made me feel the terror and fear the main characters were experiencing because it felt realistic. The story is about three teenage boys who answer an internet advertisement for sex, and then wind up caught in a trap set by a fanatical religious group who believe they are doing God’s work by ridding the world of sinners and gay people. They’re like the Westboro Baptist Church times a million and with arsenal.

The performances in Red State are top notch. Michael Parks plays Abin Cooper, the leader of the fanatical religious group. He’s terrifying, yet eerily charismatic. Despite the inhumanity of his beliefs, it was hard not to get wrapped up in his preaching at times. He’s THAT good. Melissa Leo gave an equally mesmerizing performance as a devout member of Cooper’s church. You could seriously see the devotion in her eyes (lest I forget, OSCAR WINNER!). There is a scene in Cooper’s church where there is this great juxtaposition of a gruesome event occurring while all of the devotees are sitting there, watching with sweet and pleasant smiles on their faces. Smith creates a creepy and memorable sequence there. John Goodman plays weary ATF agent Joseph Keenan and is, naturally, amazing. To make a long story short, everybody in this movie was incredible. Every character, whether you liked them or loathed them, stood out.

Despite the brutal nature of this movie, there are moments and lines of dialogue that scream Kevin Smith. Dianne and I were talking about this after the movie, how cool it was that Smith is able to create a film with a completely different tone, yet still make it his own.

This movie, in my opinion, is in the same realm as Dogma. It’s a story about what happens when people on both sides look beyond reason and give into their fears and prejudices. There are moments that are shocking, that are sad, and that will stick with you well after the movie is over. More than anything this movie is impressive because it shows how versatile Kevin Smith is as a writer and director.

Bottom Line: This is a must see film for people who are and are not fans of Kevin Smith. Either way, you will be very impressed.

Q & A Sesssion:

There was a half an hour panel after the movie, and naturally, only two questions were asked because Sir would have the most elaborate and awesome answers. All of the answers are summaries based off of the notes I took during the panel.

RED STATE at the new beverly cinema

Question #1: This movie was a real tonal change for you. Can you please make more?

Kevin Smith’s Response: “Fuck you” (that got a good laugh from the audience). Smith said that in order for another movie like Red State to happen, he would need to make another Cop Out. After that joke he started to talk about what compelled him to start making movies in the first place. He told us about how he never saw people like himself up on the big screen. Smith told us a story about when he was younger and was watching the fifth Friday the 13th movie in theaters. One of the characters in the movie was a fat kid and someone in the audience commented, “Hey look, it’s Kevin!” At that moment Smith realized he wanted to make more movie where he could see people like himself, movies that were a bit autobiographical. Smith talked about his progression as a filmmaker, how for his first few movies he talked about what he wanted to talk about. The stories were based upon his own experiences growing up and leading to the point of being a filmmaker. When he finally got to that point when he was a filmmaker, he already said everything he wanted to say. Now he talks about making movies because that’s his career. For example, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is about filmmaking… for the most part. As filmmaking became his career, the “artist” part of him needed to stay “in the room”, so he adapted as a writer and director to manage his career. At one point he said that the young Kevin Smith inside of the current fat Kevin Smith (his words, not mine) said, “You fucking dick!” Here he is, a Hollywood director and not necessarily the artist anymore.

RED STATE at the new beverly cinema

Sir then started to go off on this tangent about meeting the perfect woman. You meet her, there’s something in her eyes, and all of a sudden you start telling yourself, “She’s the one.” You want to take her out on a date and ask her if she’s OK with going to Denny’s. Her response is, “I fucking love Denny’s!” Score. You’re in the Denny’s eating, she’s playing footsie with you, then she looks into your eyes and says, “Let’s have sex in the bathroom.” You say, “We can’t do that! People will hear us. We’re at Denny’s!” She replies, “I don’t care, I want to have sex in the bathroom right now.” You’re thinking, I can’t do that. Everyone will know. I haven’t finished my food. She looks at you and says, “I’m going in the bathroom right now, and I expect you to follow me.” She walks off and you know what? You follow her into that bathroom and you guys fuck. Everyone in the restaurant can hear your disgusting and depraved sounds, but you don’t care because you are so happy with this woman and feeling so fucking good.

“And that’s how you have to feel about your art.” The audience went wild with this analogy.

RED STATE at the new beverly cinema

Smith said that the movies he makes now aren’t the ones he dreams about. This movie, however, is one that he dreamed out. He wanted to make a movie in the style of Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Brothers. He talked about how he made a Judd Apatow movie with Zach and Miri Make a Porno, and this time he wanted to try to make a Tarantino movie.

Question #2: A lot of Red State could be translated into a graphic novel. Is that normal for your movies?

Kevin Smith’s Response: He does not use storyboards, but specifically with Red State he wanted it to have the same look as Half Nelson. When he told that to his Director of Photography, David Klein, he realized that the movie needed to be shot with a handheld camera. According to Smith, Klein said, “Let’s shoot a movie that looks like you had nothing to do with it.” They used a Canon 5D on the film. Sir said that the “Old Kevin” did a standard 2-shot, usually of two people talking. He said the reason he did this is because for him, a movie enters the ear first. He’s not a visual guy, he thinks more with words than images. Anybody who’s seen one of his movies knows that they are known for their dialogue and hilarious situations. This time when filming, they used a dolly and a handheld camera. This gave a lot more versatility with the angles and shots in Red State. 

RED STATE at the new beverly cinema

Smith rounded off the evening with a cute story about Klein’s daughter, Ivy, who was one of the child actors in the movie. Ivy is in a very dramatic scene in the movie where one of the actors, Kerry Biché, says, “There are men out there and they aim to kill us.” Apparently Kerry did such a great job that it freaked out Ivy and she started to cry. This take, by the way, is the one used in the movie. Without knowing this story, I would have thought Ivy’s crying was intentional because it really added to the tension of that moment. Anyway, Smith felt so bad that he gave Klein $200 to buy a toy for Ivy. Klein said, “Add it to the pile.” Apparently, everybody on that set had given Klein money because Ivy did such a great job. The story that ended the night was about a scene they shot where the religious fanatics are protesting a funeral. Little Ivy was there as one of the protesters. Smith told the faux protesters to yell out random religious stuff while filming. When they did film, he noticed that Ivy was totally into it and yelling her little heart out, but he had no idea what she was saying. Before the next take, he told the sound guys to focus on her. When they filmed again, they discovered that Ivy was yelling, “SWIM DOWN! SWIM DOWN!” While all these people were yelling religious quotations, little Ivy was quoting Finding Nemo.

RED STATE at the new beverly cinema

In weird way, that was the perfect place to end the Q & A session. The audience clapped their hearts out, and you could feel the admiration in the room for Smith. Like any filmmaker, he’s had his better work and his not so great work, but at the end of the day he is still the independent filmmaker that he started off as. He has an appreciation and loyalty for his fans that outdoes so many artists out there, and I’m so glad that we got to experience yet another event where Kevin Smith shows this appreciation.

RED STATE at the new beverly cinema

RED STATE at the new beverly cinema


Photos by the Space Pirate Queen @punkagogo

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