‘Assholes’ will leave you wondering… ‘What the hell did I just watch?’

Betsey Brown and Jack Dunphy in a scene from 'Assholes'
Betsey Brown and Jack Dunphy in a scene from ‘Assholes’


I mean, what the fuck?

This insanely bizarre comedy from writer/director Peter Vack is part arthouse piece, part John Waters-esque laugher, part “shock and awe”.

Its visuals pop with color and calm framing. The performances are grounded and natural. Things play out like some kind of Wes Anderson piece for the first 10 minutes or so.

And then shit gets real.

One character (Jack Dunphy) reveals his obsession with assholes and anal sex, which leads him to engage in an amorous relationship with his best friend’s sister (Betsey Brown). The pair are recovering addicts whose relationship spirals out of control as they get high sniffing “Charge”, a not-so-subtle poke at those ridiculous 5-hour energy drinks. The pair regularly engage in sexual intercourse, despite contracting herpes, and their physical interaction generally involves backdoor penetration.

Oh, then a demon emerges from the woman’s ass.

Yeah, that happens.

Jack Dunphy and Betsey Brown in 'Assholes'
Jack Dunphy and Betsey Brown in ‘Assholes’

I give Assholes a lot of credit, it doesn’t hold back. Vack, who also appears in the film, goes all in on this oddball concept. And his performers do, too. Dunphy and Brown reveal everything here, both emotionally and physically, in scenes that are both striking and awkward. And they do it all with such commitment, it’s hard not to applaud them.

Watching the film was an experience. There’s a story that holds together well. The only issue I’d throw at it was a sequence in Times Square that goes on a little longer than it should have. The story moves with such sudden turns leading in some rather bizarre directions, and it does this right up to the very end.

Although I appreciated Assholes and the performances, and give Vack credit for being so fearless, I don’t know that I necessarily enjoyed the movie. Nothing about it made me outright laugh or chuckle, but I’m not really convinced the film was actually trying to get a laugh. Instead I found myself just watching Assholes like it was some kind of freak show performance piece, stretched out to more than 70 minutes, unable to look away as I tried to figure out how I was supposed to feel.

And even now, I’m still not completely sure.

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