I found myself laughing, a lot!
Screenplay By: Stephen Gaghan
Directed By: Barbara Kopple
I don’t think Barbara Kopple intended for Havoc to be funny, but that’s what it is. It goes to every extreme you can think of to try and present a culture clash and a tale of kids getting in over their heads. The result of these extremes is hilarity through and through. Perhaps a lot of that is due to my upbringing. I’m as square of a dude as you will find, I barely drank, never smoked and never did a drug. But I grew up near the city of Chicago and spent a good portion of my youth in the rougher areas of my beloved city. I knew kids who were like the ones shown in Havoc, albeit not to the extreme of a Joseph Gordon-Levitt for example. They were always funny to me because they never understood what they were getting into and how they were basically caricatures of what they represented.
I was as white as they come and I still am, yet I always got along with the drug dealers and gang bangers in my neighborhood. It didn’t matter if they were a different creed or color, I was myself with them and that meant we were cool. I didn’t try to be something I wasn’t and that meant they were cool with me, not friends or anything, but cool. Most of the kids I knew growing up are now in jail or dead and the white kids I knew like the ones in Havoc gave up that facade a long time ago for a more normal lifestyle. That to me is where Havoc’s first big misstep takes place. There is a big difference between being into culture and being into drugs. I’ve always been into rap and hip-hop, but I’m into all kinds of different cultural products. Havoc, and director Kopple, want to tie the two exclusively to one another. That being into culture automatically equals being into drugs, sex and the bad side of life. Kopple never takes the time to impress upon the viewer that there is a difference between the two and that the reason the kids from the Palisades are messed up is because they are into drugs and being idiots, not that they are into a different culture.
I always come back to the hilarity of Havoc. In the scenes that are supposed to be the most disturbing and serious I can’t help but laugh because of how badly it has been set up. If the first hour of your film is hilarious in its misguided attempts to say something, or features characters that are funny because of how badly caricatured they are then the serious moments have no impact and one can’t help but laugh. Ultimately Havoc is not supposed to be a funny movie, but I couldn’t help laughing repeatedly while watching it, that’s never the sign of a quality movie.
Havoc is notable for being the vehicle that Anne Hathaway used to shed her good girl Disney image. I will give her credit in that department, as well as in the acting department, because after Havoc the Disney good girl image was destroyed. There are moments of the skill Hathaway has within herself that come out from time to time in Havoc, but for the most part her talent is bogged down in the flaws of the film. But hey, at least Hathaway and Bijou Phillips are plenty hot to look at, and they get naked, that’s always a plus. For those of you getting angry, I’m a guy, get over it.
There was a lot of buzz around Havoc when it was released, and it is clear that the buzz wasn’t about the movie but about Anne Hathaway’s attempt to change her image. If you are someone who liked Hathaway as a Disney star and want to see the movie that changed her, then by all means check out Havoc. Otherwise, there are much better, earnest and honest movies out there about differences in culture, the lure of drugs and the street lifestyle. Maybe those movies won’t have characters that make you laugh unintentionally all the time.