FRIGHTFEST 2019 – ‘Madness in the Method’ Works Best When Doing Exactly What it Set Out to Criticise

Most famously known for his role as long-haired stoner ‘Jay’ in the films of Kevin Smith (Clerks, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back), Jason Mewes has now decided he wants to be taken seriously, and is doing so with his hyper-self-aware directorial debut Madness in the Method, which enjoyed its premiere at FrightFest this week.

Tired of being pigeon-holed into stoner comedy roles at every audition, Mewes here plays himself as an actor looking for more. He decides to turn to method acting at the advice of best pal Kevin Smith (arguably the very root of all his woes) in hopes that Hollywood will notice his serious acting chops; the films intentions vaguely seem to want to do the same in this seriously meta view on film industry.

His need to go full Daniel Day-Lewis method leads him to a book owned by Fernando Villarreal (Jane the Virgin’s Jaime Camil) called ‘Rob Weston’s Guide to Method Acting for Prestigious Talented Performers with Ambitious Goals for Career Advancement’. Purchased at a high price Mewes takes the book but is warned to only work on one chapter at a time. Of course he ignores this sentiment, and it’s not long before he’s whizzed through the book to Step 37 which tells the actor to ‘feel the anger for real’. In this instance he takes the advice way too literal, launching a full-blown attack on those who have wronged him in the industry, quickly and hilariously becoming embroiled in a murder investigation alongside new best mate Vinnie Jones (playing himself).  

The rest of the film trails alongside Mewes in his attempts to learn his craft and tackle the beast of Hollywood reporters wanting the latest scoop regarding the murder trial. Alongside is a slew of cameos from Busted’s Matt Willis, Danny Trejo, Brian O’Halloran and even Stan Lee (in his last on-screen performance!). There is of course plenty of Kevin Smith moments to satisfy those Jay and Silent Bob fans (I mean, if you’re not, why are you watching this movie?) and they are undoubtedly the most natural and funny scenes in the film. The pairs energetic chemistry lights up the room and the expected sex and blowjob jokes ensue. Due to this it is difficult to establish the message Mewes really wants to go for; when the most successful moments of the film stem from the very pairing and behaviour Madness in the Method sets out to break away from, the tone is hard to read. Is this complete satire or does Mewes really fancy himself as a genuine filmmaker and serious thespian?

Part of me wants to believe this is the highest level of meta satire but then the other part can’t help but feel like he really does possess a deep yearning for more than his work within Smith’s filmography – it’s essentially a huge shame that we only see him ‘acting’ outside his Jay persona in around two very brief scenes.

Amongst his vying for leading roles, the murder investigation and Danny Trejo in a pink feather boa there are multiple loose thread plot lines involving other characters that are largely to the films detriment in keeping its comedy – and surprising, dark weirdness, in line. From a technical standpoint the film also feels quite loose, there’s little care for visuals (the film borders on looking student-y) and choppy editing certainly don’t do Mewes much favours in being taken seriously as a comedic filmmaking voice. Thankfully at least his own charms and catchphrases are there to pick him up -again, something that will be a real treat for any existing fans but completely confusing to any newbies to his work.

It seems that in this sense, perhaps Mewes would have been better off in making his debut about someone other than himself; the story would still work but there would be more time for refinement behind the camera on a directorial side, and an allowance for new fans to be welcomed into the world of Jason Mewes without having to have seen his entire back catalogue.

 

Madness in the Method premiered at FrightFest on August 24th

 

by Chloe Leeson

Chloe Leeson is the founder of SQ. She hails from the north of England (the proper north that people think is actually Scotland but isn’t). Her life source is Harmony Korine’s 90s Letterman interviews and Ezra Miller’s jawline. She is a costume designer for hire who spends far too much time watching bad horror movies. Her favourite films are Into The WildLords of Dogtown, Stand by Me and Pan’s Labyrinth. She rants about cinema screenings @kawaiigoff and logs them on letterboxd here

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