DON PEYOTE – The Review
For the sake of full disclosure, I would like to begin by declaring that I am not now, nor have I ever been, a participant of the pot smoking culture. Why am I declaring this, you may ask? Simple. This movie is, essentially, all about smoking pot. Wonderful. Another DAZED & CONFUSED you say? Wrong. With that said, DON PEYOTE is also much more, but the weed certainly plays a major role.
Please, do not misinterpret my opening remarks. I hold no personal or political grudge against anyone for partaking in this extra-curricular activity. I only bring it up to make a point, as indulging in the great green pastime may certainly influence how the film is experienced. So, as you read this review, keep in mind these are merely the opinions of a critic who was not under the influence during the viewing.
In so many ways, watching DON PEYOTE is like watching Terry Gilliam’s FEAR & LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, only a bit more insane and with a definite indie flair. Instead of the central character being a gonzo journalist who thrives on anarchy, Warren is a struggling graphic novelist who thrives on paranoia. Both characters share a relentless taste for getting high, but after doing so, Warren delves into the colorful world of conspiracy theory, sinking deeper into its crippling grasp with each hit on his improvised apple bowl.
I’m sure you can already sense what’s in store with this film. Whatever you’re thinking, you’re not wrong. Or, you are. It all depends on how far removed from reality you currently claim to be. That, my friend, best describes DON PEYOTE and how best to determine where you may stand at the film’s completion. Just food for thought. Beware, and enjoy.
DON PEYOTE is about Warren, played by Dan Fogler, who fills the unknown void in his life with marijuana. He enjoys a relatively modest life, albeit with a borderline career and a relationship built on an unstable footing. His fiance wants a child, but fails to recognize she’s about to marry one, then when she does finds Warren completely surprised by her willingness to abandon their bond. Warren surrounds himself with friends, all of whom are equally out of touch and similarly self-destructive on a subconscious level, as he makes his way through this psychotic warm and fuzzy trip.
Let me stop you here, before we go any further. If you’re seeking a clearly structured, linear film with a concise story in three simple acts and a well-defined, low mess ending… turn around. Just, stop. Go home. Give up now. These things, you will not receive. DON PEYOTE, more or less, breaks all the rules of conventional filmmaking, but does so with such energy and bravado. The film appeals to just about every genre. Comedy, drama, mystery, horror… it even has a musical number.
DON PEYOTE is many things, but it is not a low-budget half-ass mockery designed only to get your money. Well, actually, it is, but the difference is that Fogler’s film delivers instead of just luring you in and then letting you down. The cast alone is as amazing as it is overwhelmingly surprising. Each moment of the film is like finding one prize after another, all within the same box of Cracker Jacks!
Allow me to elaborate. Anne Hathaway. Need I say more? Fine. Anne as a mysterious dream agent. Not hooked yet? Josh Duhamel returns* along side Dan Fogler. [*Please refer to SCENIC ROUTE (2013).] Jay Baruchel plays a drug dealer. Topher Grace plays Fogler’s agent, that’s right. Fogler, not Warren. (See the film for clarification.) Wallace Shawn plays Warren’s psychotherapist. Abel Ferrara plays a taxi driver… alright, this one’s not much of a stretch, but still… Abel Ferrara!
Perhaps my favorite moments in the film occur once Warren is committed. Mentally, not emotionally. For an indie film, DON PEYOTE has some incredibly imaginative imagery and the production value follows suit without straying from the indie core of the film’s appeal. Fogler is clearly having fun with this film, but worked extremely hard at making it so. Aside from starring as the cuddly, yet troubled central character, Dan Fogler also co-wrote and co-directed DON PEYOTE with Michael Conzoniero. Fogler is so confident with his vision that he frequently breaks the fourth wall, addressing the audience directly. Ballsy.
Fogler himself, as an actor and comedian, I am beginning to see him as something of a modern-day Chaplin. Talented, funny and smart, hard working and yet playfully driven. That’s impressions I get from watching his work, but DON PEYOTE really gets to the heart of this notion for me. The film oozes pet project, a labor of love. These are the kinds of films I love to see being made. Kudos, Mr. Fogler.
Personally, I enjoyed the frantic, disjointed nature of this film. I was refreshed by the utter lack of accurate expectations I had for DON PEYOTE, but with that may come a limit to its adoring audience and to the level of its viewers’ understanding. Try and look past this, if you will. Live a little. Enjoy the ride.Warren is a character that endures a lot of chemically-induced hardships for your entertainment.
DON PEYOTE is available through Video On Demand and opens theatrically on Friday, May 16th, 2014.