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Overall Rating

Awesome: 30%
Worth A Look46.67%
Average: 20%
Pretty Bad: 3.33%
Total Crap: 0%

4 reviews, 6 user ratings

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101 Reykjavík
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by Andrew Howe

"Comedy that won't leave you cold"
3 stars

Next time you attend a party and find yourself surrounded by Bohemians, neo-Beatniks and other undesirables, you will be under considerable pressure to throw something a little outré into the ring. This is when you will say "Seen any good Icelandic comedies lately?", and watch with pleasure as your fellow cineastes find themselves, for once in their lives, unable to kick-start another round of one-upmanship. Such simple pleasures make 101 Reykjavík much more than a film - it's a fashion statement, secret weapon, and powerful force for self-aggrandisement disguised as a ninety-minute ode to the slacker generation, and you watch it, as they say, with God on your side.

The Cassell Dictionary of Slang defines "slacker" as "a member of the generation in their 20's who, for whatever reason, perhaps cynicism or indolence, sees no point in joining the social mainstream". We in Australia tend to use the term in relation to its alternative definition, being "one who shirks work or avoids exertion". Hlynur (Hilmer Snćr Guđnason) meets both criteria - stuck in a small Icelandic town where the winter never seems to end (there's probably some form of symbolism there, but it's not worth getting too concerned about), he spends his days lounging around his mother's house and his nights doing a different kind of nothing, except on weekends when he drowns his sorrows down the local pub. His leisurely lifestyle is shattered by the arrival of his mother's Spanish friend, Lola (Victoria Abril, a twenty-year veteran of European cinema), which is especially fortuitous because she doesn't speak Icelandic, meaning that a third of the dialogue is a subtitle-free zone. From there things go from worse to worse still, as Hlynur attempts to maintain his hassle-free existence in the face of family gatherings, unexpected revelations, part-time girlfriends and boundless carnal desire.

Co-writer and director Baltasar Kormákur is no Kevin Smith, but that doesn't prevent 101 Reykjavík from becoming a moderately amusing chronicle of one man's fight for his right to lethargy. Hlynur is not a particularly likeable soul (which puts him in good company, because none of the other characters are either), but watching him stumble through life is not without its charms. The comedic element relies heavily on several bizarre twists and situations, but it's no worse than anything you'll find in the likes of A Fish Called Wanda, and the dialogue has its moments (inspirational scene - Hlynur walking in on a couple in the throes of ecstasy, taking a seat, and proceeding to provide a running commentary on their level of expertise). It's also worth noting that the film is not immune to the matter-of-fact nudity which permeates many European releases (there's no strategically-placed table lamps in sight), which counts as an added bonus (if that's your thing).

The film exhibits several qualities which set it apart from a typical teen flick - the setting is, to a foreigner, intriguing of itself, since it provides a rare glimpse into Icelandic small-town life (assuming, of course, that its depiction is accurate); the actors take their roles very seriously (Guđnason is particularly memorable); and there's an undercurrent of resignation, culminating in a memorable scene atop a snow-covered mountain, that prevents it from becoming nothing more than a slice of light-hearted fluff.

I wouldn't like to give the impression that this film is anything more than it is, which is a sporadically amusing effort with dashes of something a little deeper. It isn't going to single-handedly place Icelandic comedy on the world stage, so take it for what it is, have a few laughs, and send out those party invitations as soon as you can.

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originally posted: 06/26/01 12:00:43
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User Comments

12/16/05 Naoko Suzuki THE COOLEST movie in my entire life!!! Beautiful color, music, black humor, very icelandic! 5 stars
1/17/04 a5d I found out it was a comedy at the end of the toungue lashing scene. 4 stars
7/01/03 Mitsaso Despite the habit of showing naked old ladies... 5 stars
3/06/02 marzio arigoni i absolutely agree with the review and i met actors and director funny and clever people 4 stars
10/02/01 Royce Vavrek A wonderful, odd little film with a fabulous performance from Hilmir Snćr Guđnason. 5 stars
6/29/01 gustavson ericson 2 stars
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