It seems so appropriate that a Pulitzer prize winning play would get its UK debut at The National. The Flick, though, is such a profoundly odd show that it seems, retrospectively, strange to me that this play would be done in the UK at all, even with two years since it won its crown. The three people who tell this story seems to have no story at all to tell, and all of the time in the world to not tell it. They’re geeks and rejects, struggling to make any sort of small talk, with a “waiting for Godot” feel to all of the nothing that happens in their lives. Pinter may have accustomed us to silences, but underneath his nothingness his characters seemed to have furiously working minds, with Pinter expecting us to figure out what those unsaid words were. But in the case of The Flick, the three characters seem to be quiet because, in fact, they have little to say to each other. They are, in some ways, killing time before they die, working jobs that are repetitive and joyless, and seeing a future that gives them little reason to think that anything else will ever be their lot in life. This is the world that we are plunged into; a world very different from that of most people who go to the theater: a world where just holding on to a shit job is really about the best you can hope for, where you spend years having the same old nothing to say to anybody because your life just doesn’t have anything in it worth talking about.
Interestingly to me, this play is being billed as the ultimate “millenials” story, because it’s about people who are really burnt out about life and don’t see hope in the future. (It is, actually, really funny, though, and you’re never laughing at the characters … well, anymore than they would be laughing at each other.) But I see this play as actually being pretty spot on for what it’s like to be in your twenties even twenty years ago, for us Generation X types, for basically anyone who can think and who does the math and realizes that there really isn’t much of a chance of any of us having a fabulous life. Our hope is to create meaning for ourselves where we find it, but what is crushing about The Flick is that it seems to be pushing toward the Big Message that it’s our relationships with other people that really can make life bearable underneath the intolerable burden of meaningless work. Yeah, sure, people have cell phones and Facebook like we didn’t have in ’92, but this is the same crap job as Rachael had in Friends (and I had in real life only without the glamor of being in New York). And the dialogue and the relationships are so very, very real and believable and so entirely American and comforting and …
then the carpet gets pulled away and we see that the friendships you make aren’t really going to save you from life being shit, because maybe people are kind of shit. And it’s so very un-Hollywood that I had a moment of thinking “only a play would do this,” but then I remembered, yeah, those really good movies would do this, too, the same kinds of movies that are never popular and that never make it to the big cinema chains because people only want to see things with happy endings and this is why the cinema The Flick had to die and really nobody wants to talk about how shit life is for people that aren’t leading a glamorous life. And nobody wants to spend over three hours doing that. Except Richard Linklater. And Annie Baker. And maybe, just maybe, you.
(This review is for a performance that took place on Tuesday, May 10, 2016. It continues through June 15th. I recommend NOT drinking before this show, and putting a little box of candy in your purse so you can have a proper cinematic experience.)