Radio Free Albemuth (2010) / Philip K Dick

Radio Free Albemuth I absolutely adore Philip K. Dick. He's one of my favorite author - and I read a *lot*. Where so many authors have fairly cookie-cutter styles, Philip K. Dick is in a world all his own. He embraced dystopian long before things like The Hunger Games were popular. He brought us insight, twists, explorations, and psychological delvings into a world few others explored. It's fascinating that so many of his stories have been made into movies - and equally telling that, in most cases, the stories get "action-ized" to the point that the power of the story is all but lost.

With Radido Free Albemuth, you get pretty must straight-on PKD. Which, depending on what you enjoy, might be great or disappointing.

Certainly, someone seeking a blast-em heart-pumping Total Recall experience is going to be disappointed. That's just not what Radido Free Albemuth is about, and, heck, it's really not what Philip K. Dick is about either. But this particular movie even goes beyond that usual disconnect. Because Radio Free Albemuth is even a departure for PKD from what HE used to write. It is a turning in a new direction. This is PDK being semi-autobiographical. It's him telling what he thinks really did happen to HIM.

There's a reason why the pulp sci-fi writer in this story seems so much like PKD. Because that character represents him, even more directly than usual. He really did have a wisdom tooth issue. He really did see a woman with a fish-symbol necklace. He really did see pink lights, have visions, and believe about relationships to ancient Rome. So this is not so much a loose allegory wrapped in sci-fi as it is a straight-on description of what PKD felt about what is going on in our world. With, of course, a few twists and changes to give it that distance.

If you're going to complain about the movie's plot-line, well, that's to complain about the book's plot-line, and I think the movie does a great job of portraying that plot line as given. It's like Lord of the Rings. The LOTR makers wanted to do their best to accurately portray that book series into a movie format. The producers here had the same aim, and I think they did well.

Where the movie suffers is in the low budget it had. Yes, they had great aims - but they just didn't have the funds to pull off the effects or the acting. And this is where it gets tricky. There are, of course, tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of highly talented actors and actresses in Hollywood. Sure, some of them cost a lot, but many don't. There are just so many actors out there. It's the same with musicians. So it's baffling to me how they had such an odd mix of talent here. You have Jon Tenney, who I love, in a bit role as a government agent. But some of the other actors and actresses in this are just wooden. Their characters look like high school kids reciting lines, rather than real people. It made me keep "falling out" of the scene because I stepped back to sigh at the iffy acting that was going on.

All in all, this isn't a movie you take your kids to and gobble popcorn while listening to explosions. It's more thoughtful than that. It's about the dangers of an oppressive government, the roles artists can take in working against that, and the sacrifices people of vision often have to make in order to follow their heart. Poor acting aside, I think it's worth a watch, and worth discussing afterwards.

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Philip K Dick Stories Made Into Movies
A Scanner Darkly
Blade Runner
Minority Report
Total Recall

Philip K Dick Homepage