seeing_the_sights

Sightseers was directed by Ben Wheatley, a sort of UK Tarantino who arrived on the scene with his Pulp-Fiction-meets-Wicker-Man hybrid called Kill List. But Sightseers is not a Wheatley movie. He just sort of ably corrals it. From start to finish, Sightseers belongs to the tremendous Alice Lowe. You might recognize Lowe as the female quarter of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, gamely holding her own alongside Matthew Holness, Matt Berry, and Richard Ayoade. Her comedic timing is impeccable. In Sightseers, she alternately beams and sulks, murderous, adoring, confused, unconcerned, seething, idiotically oblivious. Lowe’s performance drives this movie into its strange crannies. She can accomplish with a forlorn glance what it took Will Farrell an entire career to achieve and squander.

Sightseers is the creation of Lowe and an actor named Steve Oram. Over the years, they developed these characters from a series of sketches about an English couple traveling England to see the sights, doing inappropriate things along the way. This distillation of those characters is a masterpiece of black humor, mean-spirited and nasty, cruel and uncompromising, uniquely English and drab. It knows enough to be understated. Some of the best moments are Lowe and Oram just riffing with each other. She licks a cave. He tries to explain pictures he didn’t even take. It’s so goddamn precious and mundane in the bits between the mayhem, the vulgarity, and the sociopathic rampages. It’s the opposite of True Romance or Something Wild. True Prosaic. Something Mild. Bonnie and Clyde as unsexy mousy Brits without anything better to do.

But most importantly, it knows when to go over the top without flying off the handle completely, and it knows how to do it smartly rather than gratuitously. It has a respectable sense of the absurd. “I’ve never hurt an innocent person before,” Lowe muses after a nasty accident. “He’s not a person, he’s a Daily Mail reader,” Oram replies without any hint of a wink. English, mean, and smart.

Sightseers is out on DVD today. Support Qt3 by watching it on Amazon.com or watch it instantly on Netflix.