DIRECTED BY: Joe Badon
FEATURING: Linnea Gregg, Dorian Rush, Collin Galyean, Alex Stage
PLOT: Eliza, an average Jane in a contemporary US city, has lost her boyfriend to a mystic cult; she gets pulled into the cult too, experiencing how much it sucks to be without a man in the 2010s, as a big Roman-candle middle finger to Alison Bechdel.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: This is a banal, vanilla, ordinary, trite lover’s lament about a woman getting dumped by her boyfriend, with a stale can of film-festival cliche symbolisms spray-painted over its face. The weirdest part of this movie is the realization that apparently 366 Weird Movies is now so popular that impostors are wearing a disguise and flashing our gang signs in the hopes of infiltrating our cool kids’ club. If that makes you feel dirty just for liking weird movies, just watch some good Buñuel or Gilliam and the hangover will vanish in minutes.
COMMENTS: We’ll save some time here if you want to take shortcuts: The God Inside My Ear starts out faintly clever and then loses one IQ point per minute of runtime until its brain-dead ending. The cold open skips the credits to flash a series of images, eyeballs and teeth, pyramids and dolphins, little girl in an orchard and mysterious red-robed figure in fog. Nice try, but I take notes, and these better all tie together later! The image of the tattoo of an ear on the palm of a hand at least gets explained first, as in the first scene Eliza’s boyfriend dumps her at a cafe because he’s found this cult that’s showing him enlightenment, see, and he gets messages through the ear-palm job. Goodbye plot, it was nice knowing you! In case you missed it, the entire point to this movie is: “boy dumps girl; girl sad.” Thank you, folks, goodnight.
Now we have 95 minutes for the autopsy of Eliza’s achy-breaky heart. Her coworker unsympathetically tries to hit her up for a rebound date, while her barfly friends tell her she’s better off without the loser, and her nosy neighbor pries into her business. Eliza recounts a long parable about the magician who yanks the tablecloth off the table to illustrate how she feels shattered like a wine bottle. Valentine’s Day gets brought up a lot, as her friends push her back into the dating pool. Cue the montage of quirky failed date candidates, babbling dialog that sounds like they’ve watched too many Richard Linklater films. Her only friend seems to be a sympathetic telemarketer, whose mysterious voiceover gives the the wisest counsel, but the script even drops that bit to opt for the telemarketer to become just one more male creep in Eliza’s life. Alas, he will be back as a creepy stalker, because this cruel world is out to get Mary Sue—oops, I mean “Eliza”—which is why it stole her boyfriend.
Are you ready to tell Eliza to just buy a vibrator already? By this time, anybody watching cannot possibly give a damn whether Eliza ever finds love again, because she has been given no character development, no backstory, and no B-line subplots for the movie to hang onto. We also saw nothing of her much-lamented lost relationship; the all-important sperm donor gets one goofy scene at the very beginning and he’s gone like a flushed condom. The film collapses into mushy Hallmark jello, while Eliza makes you appreciate Twilight for Bella Swan’s depth of character development and feminist empowerment. Eliza helplessly bounces around like a ping-pong ball for the entire movie while everybody around her turns from friend to enemy to freak-out. The script desperately tries to shoehorn surreal and silly extreme developments into this Tinder nightmare, but they won’t fit, because the whole story amounts to a Facebook relationship status icon.
We’re not at bottom yet: next we get the “depressed scene at home watching surreal-dumb TV shows cliche” where the commercial for “1-800-SHAMROCK” over a parody televangelist (it was done better in Repo Man) catches her ear. Here’s a girlfriends-over-coffee cliche where we yap about the inherent maleness of God, prompted by the televangelist. God spoke to her inside her ear—bam, title drop cliche!—with the message to keep moving forward, which prompts her friends to inquire into her pharmaceutical habits. Eliza works at a fashion boutique—why couldn’t she have been a welder?—so we get cliched annoying customers shopping for perfume and making Linkleter-esque skits about romance, all spoken in a Lynchian cadence. The influence from the cult is seeping into Eliza’s subconscious as quickly as the good ideas are seeping out of the story, leading to several hallucination cliches. This gives her psychic ear-bleeds, so she goes to doctors and hypnotists. Her friends give her ayahuasca so we can get in the drug hallucination cliche. On her psychiatrist’s advice she starts collecting gnomes. The cult religion sucks her in. All this because she really, really needs the D!
If you’ve ever seen the meta-horror movie Funny Games which browbeats the audience for liking horror movies, this is the equivalent for weird movie fans. Take my word that it’s pointless to go on; the script runs out of ideas a minute through and thereafter just Googles at random with no further points reached but lots of blathering nonsense. The God Inside My Ear is not without its merits; it is gorgeously shot with vivid colors and top-notch editing, and has a sense of humor that is lab-tested to be easy for millennials to digest. There’s a few clever bits, like the telemarketer and the gnomes, that fight to get their head above the choking sludge of mediocrity. The wacky montages of random images do eventually tie in somewhere, albeit in chattering pointless dream sequences. There’s great visual effects, the staple menu of filters and fractal patterns which make you feel sorry for them because they’re not in a better movie. Tragically, The God Inside My Ear can’t quit trying to impress the chicks at Cannes and just be itself. That’s because there isn’t a “self” there for it to be.
The God Inside My Ear is currently touring the film festival circuit.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“… a challenging yet wholly accessible and satisfying blend of surrealism, horror, psychological thriller, and science fiction. Imagine Repulsion by way of David Lynch and Luis Bunuel, with some Douglas Sirk high melodrama for good measure, and you start to sense what you are in for.”–Joseph W. Perry, Scream Magazine (festival screener)