The protagonist of this movie is named George Washington Winsterhammerman. And almost everyone who speaks to him or refers to him in the course of the movie uses his full name.
If there were absolutely nothing else to like about this movie, I’d still get a kick out of that. I’ve been saying “George Washington Winsterhammerman” to myself and chuckling ever since I saw this film.
This is a dystopian comedy about the ill effects of modern, corporate life.
George Washington Winsterhammerman is some sort of midlevel drone in a generic, futuristic corporation (where every sixty seconds an announcement is made alerting everyone how many minutes “of productivity” are left until the weekend). His wife sits home all day watching television, and then blindly doing whatever the shows and advertisements encourage. Society as a whole seems to be governed in some vaguely fascist cheerful style, where the president cheerleads for the corporations that control everything.
It is a horribly deadening existence for all concerned. Understandably, since it’s so close to contemporary life in America. Unfortunately the movie is only very thinly satirical.
But whereas in reality these empty, manipulated, phony lives tend to result in things like alcoholism, suicide, crime, fundamentalist religion, nervous breakdowns, and other forms of physical, emotional and moral collapse, the gimmick of the movie is that they result in people’s heads exploding.
One symptom that you may be at risk of exploding is if you dream. (Dreaming has largely disappeared, as a psychological consequence of modern life.) Another is if you have any sort of feelings of discontent or doubt, instead of just embracing this social reality as good and inevitable.
George Washington Winsterhammerman comes to realize that unfortunately he is a prime candidate to explode.
He is concerned, but he is so deadened already that he drifts along in a near-catatonic state, only rarely speaking. His perpetually deadpan expression is presumably as close as he can come anymore to manifesting panic.
The movie has kind of a hokey, low budget feel to it much of the time. Parts of it ring truer than others. For example, the two occasions when television personalities explode or go on a rant don’t work at all, because in a controlled, totalitarian society like the one being depicted, those aren’t the kinds of things that would be shown repeatedly on the nightly news.
The movie is reminiscent of 1984 in depicting illicit romance and sexual passion as being inherently subversive of this type of dystopian society.
I’m receptive to what I take to be the message of this movie. And there are a few things here and there that are a little bit amusing or a little bit interesting. I found the movie as a whole mildly entertaining.
But I can’t say much more in its favor than that. It’s a movie with a promising premise, but one that fails to do as much with it as I have to think it could have. It has worthwhile elements, and I’m reasonably close to recommending it, but I’m going to classify it as a near miss.