Arkansas

Arkansas

It’s not Clark Duke’s fault per se that I met approximately 300 Clark Dukes in my time as a improviser and comedian (two different things) in NYC. He’s ultimately just one guy and is only really responsible for himself. But when you start to notice a trend in types of guys and you get a semi-famous one of those guys, it can be a difficult seed to unplant.

There’s a story to Arkansas about crime in the south or something but it pales in comparison to the story of Clark Duke as a guy. This is ultimately a movie less about drugs or whatever and almost completely about how guys in Urban Outfitter joke t-shirts and David Cross prescription glasses grow up and who they become. They’re of course all individuals who are free to make individual decisions about their adulthood but just as basically every hardcore guy gets sober and becomes a tattooed craft non-alcoholic beer guy, basically every comedy guy becomes a filmmaker in a loud patterned shirt with a bunch of ideas for scenes that were already in different movies that he coincidentally watched in high school. When Lookin For Love plays on an 8-track during a fight scene you can’t help but imagine them going through a list of songs from the 70s Tarantino already used and checking them off sadly.

Like Kevin Smith before him, Duke commits the cardinal sin of having a Randal Graves self-insert character show up to steal the show early in the film. Unlike Kevin Smith he plays the character himself. He’s not a bad actor by any stretch of the imagination but he cuts his own legs out from under himself by having every single character who meets Swim comment on how strange and weirdly charming he is. It’s a really transparent move you see in job interviews: list a bunch of character flaws that you’re actually proud of. I don’t know. Maybe Clark Duke is actually charming. He sure seems to book enough work to suggest he is. I’ve just never met a charming person in my real life who had the compulsion to write a screenplay about it.

I’m probably being uncharitable. There’s a fun movie in here somewhere. The movie does manage to capture something about the feel of driving on an interstate in the Deep South with a sense of place and love that I’ve literally never seen from an outsider. Duke is from Arkansas and it shows. When he’s just a guy from Arkansas who’s making a movie about some guys selling drugs down there he’s a sincerely charming filmmaker. When he’s insisting he’s a lovable goofball he loses me.