I guess one sign that you’ve really made it is when you can poke fun at yourself and it’s not just an inside joke for your friends. With “Birthday Suit,” a new three-minute short on “Funny or Die,” mumblecore figurehead/sometime colleague Joe Swanberg achieves the latter, if only barely — hanging at a 48% approval rating, “Birthday Suit” seems to be lost on some of the site’s audience.
In films like “Hannah Takes The Stairs” and “Alexander The Last,” Swanberg’s toyed with very plausible-looking sex scenes as a way of advancing narrative. The premise of “Birthday Suit” is that Swanberg is making his first movie with biggish-name stars (“Sex and the City”‘s Jason Lewis and Vinessa Shaw of “Two Lovers”), and the sex scenes are going to be green-screened, with the naughty bits reconstructed digitally. “If anybody for even a split second realizes that that’s a digital erection, then we’ve failed at our job,” Swanberg deadpans, appearing as himself alongside some of his mainstays (notably Kent Osborne as a dweeby CGI engineer providing stunt genitalia).
It’s a genial joke that works at multiple levels, mocking over-elaborate CGI technology that replicates things that don’t really need replication (a la Robert “Beowulf” Zemeckis), as well as actors congratulating themselves for “bravery” in doing nudity/sex scenes. But mostly it makes fun of Swanberg himself and the kind of movies he makes — ones that could be considered a little sex-obsessed. I look forward to the Andrew Bujalski follow-up, which I presume will be a “Waking Life”-style rotoscope of 100 minutes of coffee-shop chats.
[Photo: “Birthday Suit,” Funny or Die, 2009]