Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008) (part 7 of 7)
Meanwhile, backstage somewhere, Repo comes to Shilo’s rescue, only for her to get the drop on him, thanks to the old it’s-not-really-her-just-her-costume ruse.
His mask comes off and the boring confrontation begins. If the story in general wasn’t so teeth-grindingly irritating and circular, I wouldn’t bother caring about this scene at all. It’s the standard accusations from every other double-life story ever made, but what makes it so stupid is that Shilo’s found out, not only that her father, the only person she’s ever trusted, has been lying to her all her life, but that he’s, in case you’ve forgotten, a mass murderer. Yet to see her in action, you’d think he just told her she couldn’t go to the prom. She runs out singing, “You are dead, Dad, in my eyes! Someone has replaced you. Dad I hate you, go and die!”
Despite the fact that this is the number two phrase most often uttered by teenage girls to their fathers, just behind “Dad, please don’t friend me on Facebook!”, this is nonetheless just the microscopic push Nathan needs to completely move to Crazy Town. Repo decides it’s all Rotti’s fault that he’s lost his daughter and scream-sings, “Then let the father die! And let the monster riiiiiise!” while comic-book panels of Repo slaughters suddenly flash across the screen like peals of lightning. This clues us in that the monster he’s singing about is himself, i.e., Repo, and not, say, Gamera.
Repo takes to the stage behind the still-drawn curtains, ready to lay down some heavy shit on the Largo clan, only to get distracted by the prone, impaled form of his dead wife’s BFF Mag, allowing a suddenly important Luigi to kneecap him. Meanwhile, Shilo runs onstage from the other direction, for no particular reason. The curtain comes up just as Rotti’s laying out his entire scheme. Luigi and Pavi, taking advantage of the audience (there may be a GASP sign that lights up just offstage), convince Shilo that Repo murdered her mother, while Rotti, drumroll please…
Reveals that Shilo doesn’t actually have a medical condition. Her father’s been systematically poisoning her through her medicine!
Why? No one says. And even if it isn’t one of Rotti’s lies, we’re actually supposed to sympathize with Nathan, who’s being zapped with cattleprods by the Robert Palmer blue-lipped fashionista guards. Because when your job is to kill people for being deadbeats and rip out their livers with extreme prejudice, you can’t always make good parenting choices, right? Shilo starts having trouble breathing, causing Rotti to get all concerned and tell her to fight through it, while Repo sings, “It’s me who failed you.” Well, yeah.
Shilo blacks out again, collapsing in a pool of her father’s blood (symbolic! Or something), and flashes back to, oh Christ, the entire film, and awakens moments later to find her father tied to a wheelchair, and the audience on the edge of their seats. The audience in the film, mind you, who have evidently had their brains repossessed and don’t know tripe when they see it.
Rotti presses his advantage on the emotionally unstable girl and hands her a gun, telling Shilo she needs to kill her murdering ol’ dad. A rube in the audience with a bag of popcorn jumps up and gleefully shouts, “Kill him!!”—but it’s just Luigi. Rotti clarifies he’ll sign some papers he has with him leaving everything to Shilo, if only she caps him right then and there. This causes Luigi and Pavi to freak out and rush back onstage. So where’s Amber? Still having trouble with her face? I’m half expecting her to rush onstage with her face covered in frosting.
Repo acts all apologetic for, you know, poisoning her (he sings, “Remember that I love you”—huh?), and suddenly Shilo puts two and two together to get five, figuring out every part of Rotti’s scheme that he hasn’t already told her, including things that happened before she was born (he used her father, he used her mother, etc., etc.). Luigi and Pavi are fighting each other [?], just for something to do, I guess, while Shilo and Rotti pass the gun back and forth like—well, like a prop in a bad opera. Rotti, meanwhile, has a sudden onset of Movie Illness, getting all sweaty and looking like he’s going to barf up his gall bladder.
Fed up with Shilo’s inability to do his dirty work, and realizing his own gas gauge is pretty much on empty, Rotti somehow kills the stage lights with a gesture [?] and plugs Nathan himself, then berates his sons for being ludicrous freaks of nature, as well he might. Amber runs on, still bloody and faceless, and Rotti calls her disgusting too. (Haters in the back, pipe down, please.) Shilo ministers frantically to her dying monster father, while her replacement monster father coughs up a lung.
Rotti then turns to the audience, looking like death warmed over, and muses about how once he’s dead, everything he ever worked for will have been for nothing. At the very least, Paul Sorvino’s stopped embarrassing himself trying to play Rotti like a Dutch East India Company tycoon and slipped back into the mob boss character he always plays. Like every other time the role doesn’t call for it, it’s hilariously out of place, but at least for us watching it’s warm and familiar, and in this sea of drab hipsterisms it’s a welcome change.
Rotti dies, to the accompaniment of dramatic organ chords and a lamenting choir, as the opera audience writhes with grief and the movie audience writhes with exasperation. Shilo and her father reconcile while he bleeds to death. He dies, and Shilo, covered in daddy’s blood, holds up her head, ready to take on the world as a strong and independent young woman with no ties and everything to prove. No, really.
That, in a nutshell, is the core of the movie version of the teen goth philosophy: you have everything you need to be somebody special, if only you could get those goddamned parents out of the way. Just in case you think this concept might be subtly rendered, she’s actually singing “Free at last! Oooooooh, free at last!!”
In fact, if you think about it, the story managed to kill off all conceivable permutations of Shilo’s parents: long-dead mommy Marni, dead Repo Man daddy, dead Godfather replacement daddy, and dead impaled (pause) “godmom” Mag. I’ll bet, if we check, we’ll find the milkman is dead, too.
Of course, they wrap up the story before Shilo starves to death after the government repossesses her house and her shut-in lifestyle prevents her from getting a job.
Graverobber peruses the tabloids. “Shilo Wallace Says ‘NO!’ to GeneCo!” shouts a headline. Shilo Wallace? Does that mean our mass murderer/antihero’s name was Nathan Wallace? That’s right up there with Melvin Smiley in the pantheon of really lame hitman names. Also: Shilo didn’t exactly say “NO!” to GeneCo, because Rotti gave up on her and killed Repo himself, and never signed the papers he was waving around making the whole thing over to her.
Anyway Graverobber essentially tells us that every message the film conveyed before this moment was bullshit and, despite Rotti’s last words, GeneCo will never go away.
As the credits roll, we learn that Amber, with a new face, has taken control and auctioned off her old face for a publicity stunt. An auction that Pavi won after Luigi killed the other bidders. So in the twisted Addams Family world of the Largos, that means they’ve buried the hatchet and are sort of working together. I guess. In a final bit of squick, Pavi’s replaces his old mask with his sister’s face, which, amazingly, looks exactly like his old mask.
The film ends on a caption: “And so GeneCo’s story continues…”
A melancholy song about how you’re perfect just the way you are plays over the depressingly long end credits.
Which means that, even though a bunch of people died pointlessly, they’ll continue to die pointlessly, because it’s a good thing to be shallow, and anyway Corporate America triumphed, so it was all for the best.
This film has done something I didn’t think it could: not only did it gather together some of my favorite actors and make utter fools of them, but it’s actually put the JFK assassination into perspective. Who cares if Kennedy was killed by Oswald, or Jimmy Hoffa, or Gumby, or even if he did it himself due to a hilarious time travel mishap, what I wanna know is how the hell such a relatively small cadre of fanatics actually managed to convince thousands of people that this big pile of fetid cheese was the next Rocky Horror. It’s not even the next Donnie Darko, and lord knows we don’t need another one of those running around.
True, there was a time when I might have agreed with what the story had to say, but even then I wouldn’t have liked the movie, because, (a) not only is it only popular with people who don’t have any real problems but think they do, and are therefore extra annoying, but (b) I never liked being condescended to by self-important filmmaking auteurs. Just about all the real goths I’ve ever met are remarkably upbeat people; we don’t like dark and evil shit on account of being depressed because the ‘rents grounded us, it’s just our scene. But then there are people who misappropriate our shtick just so they’ll have an excuse to make whiny little asses of themselves, and it’s these turkeys whom Hollywood caters to.
Repo! The Genetic Opera is destined to go down in history as one of the high-water marks of bad cinema. As such, it deserves a Bad Movie Name™, like Exorcist Too: The Hilaritic, or Star Trek V: Oh God Shatner’s Directing. For a while, I simply called it Repo! The Generic Opera, which is fine, and probably what’ll stick with people, but for my money, there’s only one BMN that perfectly encapsulates how repugnant, stupid, idiotic, repetitious, unoriginal, smug, smarmy, and poorly made it really is:
4chan! The Musical.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m just getting older. I mean, hell, I’ve been to war. I’ve had a bomb go off less than fifty feet away from me. Maybe I just can’t sympathize with young girls with daddy issues anymore. Or filmmakers who think that’s what the goth scene is all about.
This film almost disillusioned me with my entire subculture. But then I popped in Sweeney Todd, and remembered why I fell in love with the dark side in the first place.