Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to meet myself at a different period in my life. Not as another person, but as me right now. And it’s never in the context of trying to warn myself about some sort of future mistake I will make, instead it’s about the encounter itself. What would I have to do to convince my younger self that I am, in fact, myself from the future? Conversely, what would my post-2016 self have to do to convince me right now that he is me? Is there anything you could say to yourself to believe such an outlandish thing?
Truth be told, I don’t think I’d particularly enjoy such an encounter. Even if I took his word for it after he told me every detail of my life that I’ve never told anyone, I would still harbor doubts. It would never be an honest relationship. And in the larger picture, if my future self is coming back to talk to me for some reason, something has probably gone terribly wrong. And I honestly have no desire to meet myself at 18. It would take a lot for me to go through the effort of going back to talk to him. And even if I could convince my 18-year-old self that I was in fact him, he’d probably just ask me to buy him beer – which I probably would in an effort to gain his trust.
After gaining my trust with a case of Milwaukee’s Best, my past self would ask me about the future. I’d hesitate to tell myself too much – I wouldn’t want to risk coming back to the future and learning that I’m now a stockbroker or something. But I would probably risk telling myself about Dirty Grandpa, The Most Important Movie Ever Made.
Strangely missing from Oscar consideration, Dirty Grandpa would be a serious contender if it had not, bafflingly, missed the Dec. 31 cutoff date. As you’ve most certainly heard, there’s an online petition demanding the White House take action on this travesty. Another curious decision is Lionsgate releasing Dirty Grandpa, a movie that offers no laughs, as a comedy. Instead, it’s an indictment on our society as a whole – a no-bones-about-it, heartbreaking, devastating takedown on this cesspool of society that Dirty Grandpa thinks we have. And it might just be The Most Important Movie Ever Made.
Dirty Grandpa stars an actor named Zac Efron (The Lorax) as Jason Kelly. Jason works as corporate lawyer, but he dreams of more meaningful things. You see, Jason is a dreamer. And he was once an ace photographer, but he gave up his dream of taking pictures to work as a lawyer. He has a fiancée named Meredith (Julianne Hough) who could be easily dismissed as an outdated, “shrill” character type. For example, during the funeral for Jason’s grandmother, Meredith wants to discuss party planning for their upcoming wedding. But through Meredith, we see society’s fascination with materialism. Jason literally has to live with a materialistic society. This is why we feel so bad for Jason – this poor, poor, poor incredibly good-looking man with a high-paying job and a fiancée who’s nice, except when the movie is trying desperately hard to make us hate her. But when you understand what a movie as nuanced as Dirty Grandpa is trying to say… it makes all sense in the world. We are all Jason Kelly.
Robert De Niro (The Fan) plays Jason’s recently widowed grandfather, Dick Kelly, who Jason agrees to drive to Florida. When we watch Robert De Niro’s Dick Kelly masturbating to pornography in a reclining chair, we are reminded of De Niro’s performances in The Godfather Part II, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas and we shake our heads in disbelief that this is happening – that, after all these years, De Niro can still reach back and pull out something this unique and thought-provoking. As Dick Kelly reaches orgasm, the audience is forced to ponder, My God, what’s happening here? Why is this happening? Why am I seeing this? Is this some sort of punishment?
And that’s the catch: Robert De Niro masturbating in a reclining chair is, along with all of Dirty Grandpa, a punishment. It’s representing the punishment we all deserve for society’s masturbational ills. I just know that’s what director Dan Mazer is trying to tell us, because, otherwise, no filmmaker could be this cruel.
No filmmaker could be so cruel as to have so many jokes about women, rape, the disabled, the LGBTQ community, and minorities without some sort of larger statement about all of us. Granted, a person has to dig very deep into this movie and, frankly, just make stuff up out of the blue to not look at this film as absolute filth, but that’s exactly what Mazer is trying to get all of us to do… to make us look inward.
This is a very disturbing and difficult movie to watch. Someday, scholars will teach classes, warning them of what can happen when evil wins. When we watch the scene when Zac Efron’s Jason Kelly wakes up on the beach, wrecked after a night of smoking crack, only wearing a thong with a big stuffed bee attached, it’s tragic enough. But then when a small child wants to play with the bee and that child’s father thinks the child is performing a lewd sexual act on Efron, it makes us want to stop the movie, remove it from its projector, and throw it in the river. Then we light that river ablaze in all its glory. But that’s the easy way out. This film needs to be studied so that what’s depicted here can never, ever happen again.
Dirty Grandpa is The Most Important Movie Ever Made.
(Too Long; Didn’t Read version: Dirty Grandpa is the worst movie I’ve ever seen in a movie theater. Burn it.)
Mike Ryan lives in New York City and has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and New York magazine. He is senior entertainment writer at Uproxx. You can contact him directly on Twitter.