There are certain movies that make me irrationally upset because I have no idea what to make of them. Heck, they may even want me to be irrationally upset (not that they care). There will always be films that are not going out of their way to impress anyone or have the viewer take away anything in particular. The animated film “It’s Such a Beautiful Day” (2012) directed, written and narrated by Don Hertzfeldt is one of those movies. And yet, it was worth every confusing minute.
“It’s Such a Beautiful Day” is actually the stitching together of three of Hertzfeldt’s short animated films (“Everything Will Be Okay,” “I Am So Proud of You” and “It’s Such a Beautiful Day”) into an entire feature film. The story focuses on a man named Bill who is suffering from poor health and memory loss. The scenes jump around to different times in Bill’s life, from his childhood to his old age, in no particular order. The movie is animated very simplistically, with all the humans represented as stick figures (however, small live action clips are interspersed in the more intense moments of the film).
One of the major reasons why this movie is so frustrating is that it’s always on the border between realistic sincerity and artsy absurdity. The simplistic animation gives the initial feel of a more down-to-earth film, but the strange narration and storyline give an unsettling feeling throughout the movie. One minute, you are under the impression that this is a reflection of a person’s everyday life, the next, you are dealing with a nearly 2-minute-long scene of the main character at a bus stop while someone is blowing leaves out of the sidewalk (with no narration). It definitely has quite a few moments where it desperately wants you to ask, “But what does it mean?” Is it a movie filled with symbolism? Is it a movie that wants you to think that it is a movie filled with symbolism, when in reality the filmmaker is just messing with you? Whether it is on purpose or not, the film is uncomfortably weird.
“Weird” is not necessarily a bad thing though. This is one of those movies that is kind of like a Rorschach test: each viewer will get something different out of it. This is, quite possibly, due to the fact that there is so little there. The film plays it pretty safe in that sense. You cannot really criticize the acting because the whole thing is narrated. To criticize the animation would not make sense because it is meant to be ridiculously simple.
The watching experience of “It’s Such a Beautiful Day” is entirely dependent on the viewer’s emotions. Depending on who you are, this could be a brilliant innovative move or Hertzfeldt’s shot in the dark, hoping to hit some kind of emotion. It is the blank canvas in the modern art museum that makes some people fall into the fetal position and cry and other people go on an unhinged rampage through the gallery because they can’t get a ticket refund. For the sake of professionalism, I will not say what group I fall into, but I am obligated by the courts to place an apology to the Museum of Modern Art here (sorry).
What I can say is this: “It’s Such a Beautiful Day” is not a forgettable movie in the slightest. Hertzfeldt’s casual tone while narrating events that range from mundane to humorous to terrible maintains a haunting vibe throughout the film. The fact that so much of the film is left up to the viewer’s interpretation makes the absurd events stick in your head for days on end. This is not your run-of-the-mill linear story; this is an emotional roller coaster aiming to make you unsettled. So much happens in the 62-minute running time that makes it feel almost like a regular 90-minute feature.
The people who will like this film the most are probably fans of Hertzfeldt’s previous work, followed by art film junkies and people who describe themselves as “philosophical.” But if you are just looking for something ridiculously weird to watch, this will definitely fit the bill. It is an interesting feat in itself to see a movie this long that was written, directed, animated and narrated by one person, and you can tell that this is a labor of love. How you’re “supposed” to feel about it, though, that’s a different story altogether.
– Erin Penney, Staff Writer