Apr 22, 2021

"Ham on Rye": Waiting for Something to Happen. Zombies, Pod People, a Fade-Out Kiss. Anything at All. Anything.


"Ham on Rye, a coming-of-age comedy centered on the nervous excitement of youth and the strange horror of entering adulthood explores a suburban community's relationship with a prom-like ritual and the decay of the human spirit."

Who over-writes this stuff?  It uses so many overblown, pretentious phrases to say nothing, and it left out a comma.

"It begins with the crowd-pleasing spirit of a John Hughes movie (I hate John Hughes movies!) and fades slowly into an off-kilter dystopia with the energy of Dazed and Confused."  

Wait -- was Dazed and Confused about a dystopian society, or...does it just use the  energy of Dazed and Confused to describe the dystopian society that has a relationship with the decay of the human spirit, with the spirit of John Hughes?

The plot description on wikipedia is even more overblown and pretentious.  Apparently the town teens gather at the local diner for "a surreal ceremony of food, dance, and romantic angst that will determine the course of their lives forever. Many of the teens are granted instanteous escape from the clutches of suburbia, while an unchosen few are left to dwell interminably in their vacant hometown."  

Suburbia has clutches?  Does "dwell interminably" mean "live forever"?

If the blurbs are so overwritten, imagine the dialogue!  Life's too short...um, I mean...existence is insufficiently interminable.  I'll just go through it on fast-forward, looking for beefcake and gay characters.

We start with interminable minutes of the hands of people getting dressed in fancy clothes and playing with cigarette lighters.  A flash of a bare male chest, but the camera is mostly into their hands.

We finally see some people, but they are not differentiated.  There are 103 cast members, no focus characters, no character development, and very few conversations, so I don't know who anyone is.  These beefcake photos are from random cast members' instagram or facebook pages.

To continue: four boys in fancy clothes walk down the street.  One wonders whether "porking" is really the only worthwhile activity in life.  What about doctors and nurses in emergency rooms? Don't they perform an important service that has nothing to do with porking?  What about gay people?  They never pork at all.  Does that mean that their lives are meaningless?

  We concentrate on someone who looks like the long-haired dude from Dazed and Confused.  But he fades away.  

Meanwhile, three girls from Picnic at Hanging Rock walk into the woods, discussing who likes whom.

A dad tells his son "Talking is over.  Now is the time to act.  Get out there!" Presumably he means "Go get laid!"

The teens all gather in the schoolyard and discuss nonsequiters: "When they invented mathematics, they took a picture of the sky and turned it upside down.  And they had sponges back then, so they put a sponge in the middle of the picture."  

Eventually they head to a local teen hang-out and discuss nonsequiters.  The boys all pair off and dance together, but it doesn't appear to be romantic: they keep eyeing the girls.  

When the music stops, they all line up, looking terrified.  Time for the lottery?  No, time for each boy to go down the line, point, and get a thumbs-up or thumbs-down (all in hand close-ups.  Somebody has a fetish!).  If it's thumbs-up, they walk off together, finger-in-finger (it looks as stupid as it sounds), both partners apparently believing that they're on the way to the slaughterhouse.

I thought it was boy-hands choosing girl-hands, but the camera pans across a mixed-gender group, waiting in terror to be chosen.  One hand looks like it pointed at a boy.  Maybe you can choose either?

Wait -- what did they choose each other for?  In the next scene, they're not paired up anymore.  They're in a big group, dancing wildly, eyes bugging out, screaming.  Preparing to meet the Insect God?

Ok, now they pair off for slow dancing.  Probably all boy-girl, but it's hard to tell because so many of the boys have long hair.

They dance until dawn, whereupon they emerge into the bright light, happy and victorious.  Except it's not dawn anymore; the sun is going down. 

Five minutes of shots of various porch lights, house lights, convenience store lights, street lights, and so on.  The blurb says that the town is "vacant."  Maybe all of the adults have vanished?

Daytime again.  The kids return to the community.  Endless scenes of adults staring at them with hatred and disgust; apparently what happened last night (or daytime) was unwelcome.  No one speaks for upteen minutes.

Some Dazed and Confused guys smoke cigarettes and stare.  Then: "Cheer up, man.  Just don't think about it."  I surmise that the teens have now grown up and will replace the adults in the community, who must now leave.  Or maybe die?

They skateboard to a back yard where a group of adults is eating corn dogs, playing Uno, staring endlessly at a fire, and looking depressed. No one speaks for upteen minutes.  Then: "I'm happy.  I'm glad that it's happening."  So, just light the Wicker Man already.

Eventually four guys get into a car and drive away, discussing nonsequiters.  

Wait -- the adults don't all leave town or die.  The next scene is a family dinner, an extremely depressed mom and dad and teenage girl discussing nonsequiters.  

 Then two guys on a couch watching tv late at night (maybe a gay couple?).  

Then a boy or girl with confetti hair having a birthday party at the park, where there a lot of people around.  Life goes on.  The end.

So many sinister precursors that led nowhere. So many people being terrified or depressed about what was going to happen, but nothing happened.

No.  The teens are played by real teens, not 25-year old fitness models.  The adults are mostly nondescript.

Gay Characters: Who can tell?  103 characters, no one spending more than a few minutes on stage, and most don't speak.  There are only about five lines of dialogue, all consisting of nonsequiters.  Plus most of the boys have long hair, making it difficult to differentiate between boy-girl and boy-boy couples.

Obvious Director Fetishes: Long hair.  And especially hands.

Significance of the Title: Who knows?  No one eats a ham sandwich or discusses ham sandwiches among the nonsequiter conversations.

Homages:  The Lottery, The Wicker Man, and various other movies about sinister goings-on in small towns.  Except there's no pay-off.

You can tell from the horribly overwritten blurbs that the writer/director has never had a class in creative writing, so  he ignored the first rule of the first day of class: stories must always be about something happening.  You can't just have people staring and looking depressed or terrified for 1 1/2 hours, without showing what they're depressed about or terrified of!

What Happened: I read in a review that most of the teens in town vanished during the Night, so that's why they're terrified.  And the next day the adults are either terribly depressed over the loss of their kids, or else angry and resentful at the ones who survived.  If you look closely, you can see that there are more people around early on.  But the depiction is so subtle that you'd never get it without an explanation from the "director."  And it's never explained.  

My Grade: You can only grade movies, and this was not a movie. It was people standing around, staring.


  1. I saw the trailer which looks like just another pretentious arty indie film which gets a lot of buzz at film festivals but nobody actually pays to see

  2. "Escape suburbia" cliché. More "escape the landlord" now.

    "Oversexed teenage boy" cliché. I suppose that the pairing off looks bisexual is a point in the film's favor.


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