Neil Breen looks like if jaded scientists decided to turn the phrase “fuck it” into a human being. A man with the charisma and appearance of a damp pile of peach-colored towels, Breen has become a reliable presence in outsider art, producing a baffling work of overweening hubris every four years. Fateful Findings is what he did in 2013.
Tagline: Breen doesn’t play by your prosaic rules of marketing, society.
More Accurate Tagline: I’ve been hacking into the most secret government and corporate secrets.
Guilty Party: In my review of Breen’s earlier (and superior… yeesh, didn’t think I’d ever say that) effort Double Down, I pointed out that he doesn’t quite fit into my Insane Foreign Businessman Auteur Theory. Thanks to some mescaline and a bad fall, I think I’ve figured out why: he’s not one. In fact, he belongs to a different, but related and often overlapping group: The Bare Ass Auteurs. Insane Foreign Businessmen Auteurs usually do not appear in their own films. Bare Ass Auteurs, however, fancy themselves stars, and what’s out when the stars are? That’s right, a full moon. (Okay, that was a long trip for a terrible joke. I’m really sorry.) Point is, Bare Ass Auteurs, like Breen and Tommy Wiseau, are convinced that the road to success is through their asses. By showing them onscreen.
Synopsis: All right. We can do this.
Two kids wandering in the woods find a mushroom. Then, using some kind of alien black magic and a cheap cross-fade, the mushroom turns into a box. The kids take a black cube out of the box, and replace it with some cheap plastic beads that are on the ground next to it, because fuck you, aliens. The girl, Leah, decides she’s making a bracelet out of the beads. The boy, Dylan, gets the cube.
Leah moves away, and like forty years later, Dylan (Breen) is living a Vegas suburb with his wife Emily. Then, one day, he gets totally creamed by a Rolls Royce. Bummer for him. But during the accident, the black cube appears in his hand, and a puff of smoke wafts over his face like the world farted at him.
So he goes to the hospital, where they cram a giant bandage on his head, but due to alien black magic or something, he recovers and goes home. Only now he no longer wants to be a novelist. He turns his back on his lucrative world of the written world (my eyes are bleeding as I write this), and starts hacking into government and corporate computers after the secrets and corruption he knows is there. He pretty much tells everyone who will listen that he’s doing this. Incidentally, his idea of “hacking” is sitting in front of four open laptops, all off, occasionally throwing books at them and periodically typing with a care and precision that makes Keyboard Cat look like Chopin.
Meanwhile, he has two therapists, one who wants him taking drugs, and one who wants him to talk. Drug Therapist is basically just supplying Emily’s pill habit. Talk Therapist apparently meets her clients in a shipping container.
Anyway, Dylan meets up with Leah at a barbecue, and meets her fiance Tim. Dylan looks like he’s in his fifties, while Leah’s about twenty years younger, so I’m pretty sure they met in that wainscoted black hole from Interstellar. Either that, or Dylan’s had some seriously hard living. They pretty much instantly hook up, and Emily kills herself. Dylan cradles her body for all of about five minutes, and then he’s like, cool, now I can live with this chick I knew when we were nine. Or she was nine and I was twenty-six.
One of the governments or corporations or someone that Dylan’s been hacking into sends one guy in a hoodie to sort shit out. He kidnaps Leah and takes her out to a storage container. Because he dropped the note with the address of the storage facility on it (seriously), Dylan solves that mystery pretty quick. He knocks hoodie guy out with a convenient beer bottle (totally realistic, they’re all over Vegas), but can’t get in as the trailer is locked and no one has the key. So through this whole movie, he’s been yammering on about powers he’s gotten, and to this point, those seem to consist entirely of working on laptops that are off. Here, he phases through the trailer like Kitty Pryde, rescues Leah, and gets out.
Then he delivers a press conference, where he tells the world that he has all those government and corporate secrets. Not what they are, mind you. Just that he has them. Presumably, this ushers in a new age of… something. Who the hell knows.
Life-Changing Subtext: If you want to be with your long-lost love, just provoke your wife into overdosing on booze and pills.
Defining Quote: “I’ve hacked into the most secret government and corporate secrets.” This line is said by Dylan at every conceivable opportunity as a shibboleth for people with a deep spirituality, but with a distrust in both government and private institutions. Basically, people who’ve been out in the desert too long, and could probably use a cold drink and an umbrella. That’s not to say that governments and corporations aren’t corrupt — they are, to a cartoonish degree — but that Breen’s understanding just kind of stops there. It’s like figuring out Count Chocula is a vampire, and then wondering who stole all your blood and chocolate donuts.
Standout Performance: Klara Landrat as Emily is this incredible combination of terrible actor and recent immigrant. I’m ninety percent sure she learned her dialogue phonetically. It’s not like she could look for clues from context.
What’s Wrong: The thing that I love about the auteur brand of terrible movie is what it reveals about the mind behind it. Breen’s got some feelings, man! He’s clearly pining over lost love, and wishing he could pursue it. He sees rampant hypocrisy and corruption in the public and private sectors and wishes he could do something about it. He also wants to be a superhero, because at this point, fuck it, why not? The only surprising part is there’s no narration where he talks about the healing light that emanates from his dong.
Flash of Competence: Breen loves the Nevada desert, and in a couple shots, he manages to capture its stark majesty. Sure, he’s kind of lurching through it at the time, but at least he isn’t skipping around on rocks like a mountain goat with crippling vertigo.
Best Scenes: I completely omitted a huge subplot from the synopsis. Why? Because it had nothing to do with anything, least of all the movie. Dylan and Emily are best friends with this trainwreck of a couple, Amy and Jim. They’re both alcoholics, and they have a high school-aged stepdaughter who comes onto Dylan a few times because Breen’s ego is like a balloon with a slow leak. Occasionally it needs someone to blow in it. Wait, that came out wrong.
So anyway, Amy shoots Jim (she was trying to shoot the car. Don’t ask.) and then makes it look like a suicide by dropping the gun next to him. There have been pants-shittings with more planning. Dylan rushes in and cradles the dead Jim — he cradles everyone who dies, like a saggy-fleshed Mary — repeatedly asking why he killed himself. Later, Ally, the stepdaughter, comes clean about what happened. Dylan tells her to go to the cops, and that’s it. Out of the movie. Never mentioned again.
Periodically, Dylan is nude in a room lined in black plastic. I think this is supposed to be the inside of the cube. The only person ever in there with him is Leah. This looks like the kill room in the haunted basement of Leatherface’s homestead. Incidentally, it’s never explained, so fuck it, that’s what it is.
Transcendent Moment: I glossed over this in the description of the climax of the movie because it’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. After Dylan totally assures the world that, uh-huh, he’s got these really damaging secrets, but they’re like in Canada or something and you haven’t met them, he surrenders the mics. To who? A parade of government officials and corporate officers. They all admit wrongdoing. Two of them then shoot themselves in the head. The others go home later and kill themselves.
So… the fuck happened there? Did the second guy who brought a gun to kill himself see the first guy and get a pissy look on his face like they wore the same gown to a ball? How did the press conference keep going after the first suicide? Were the others who killed themselves later originally planning to shoot themselves but figured it’d be passé? I don’t want to jump the gun here, no pun intended, but it’s the funniest mass suicide ever put on film.
At this point, I am comfortable saying that any Breen movie is going to be an automatic recommend from me. While Fateful Findings isn’t as good as Double Down, there’s plenty of insanity and inanity to please fans of WTF cinema. And if you figure it out, let me know.