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With: Hilmir Snaer Gudnason, Victoria Abril, Baltasar Kormakur, Hanna Maria Karlsdottir
Written by: Baltasar Kormakur, based on the novel by Hallgrimur Helgason
Directed by: Baltasar Kormakur
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: English and Icelandic, with English subtitles
Running Time: 88
Date: 28/10/2001

101 Reykjavik (2000)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Ice, Ice Baby

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I'd like to, if I may, coin a new phrase: Indie-pop. An Indie-pop movie is an independent movie that plays just like a mainstream Hollywood movie, or follows a certain established formula created for independent movies. Despite what people think, independent cinema is just as controlled and cowardly as mainstream cinema, and this results in films like 101 Reykjavik. Imported from Iceland, 101 Reykjavik features such common images as a 28-year-old loser wearing three-day stubble every day (Don't filmmakers realize that this is impossible? What do they do, wait to film every third day when the stubble grows back?) who lives with his mother and takes a bath in a grimy bathtub, sinking slowly underwater and letting little bubbles erupt from his nose.

Even the so-called shocking storyline, in which Hlynur (Hilmir Snaer Gudnason) realizes his mother is a lesbian and accidentally sleeps with her lover, sounds like typical Indie fare -- in theory it shocks, but in practice it coddles. In addition, Hlynur can't stop watching porn and finds that his casual sex partner is pregnant. On the other hand, I have a friend who likes to say, "Never underestimate the power of pop." Which means that even inconsequential time-wasters have their place. 101 Reykjavik does in fact contain enough interesting material to keep one's mind from wandering.

For one thing, the depressed Hlynur manages to get off a few great zingers during his time on-screen. Traveling to the dreaded annual family Christmas party, Hlynur says, "I'd rather go to a funeral than a family party. At a funeral there's one less idiot to deal with." For another, Hlynur's mother's lover Lola is played by the intoxicating Spanish actress Victoria Abril (Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!). She sweeps into the frozen Icelandic climate like a warm, sweet breath and melts everything around her. Indeed, I quite like the film's atmosphere, taking place over Christmas and New Year's with only a few hours of daylight each day, where everyone mostly stays inside, sips tea, takes baths and goes to parties.

The movie has a great deal of fun with Hlynur's slacker ennui point of view, but when it comes time for him to grow up at the film's conclusion, it doesn't know where to go. Hlynur's supposed life-change comes in the form of a long scene of him lying in the snow contemplating suicide. After what seems like a few hours, he wakes up alive and suddenly forms a new attitude (though he still lives at home with his mom). In the end, 101 Reykjavik is far too minor for me to bother with any loud complaints, and it definitely has enough material for sugar-puff entertainment -- that's more than most Hollywood movies can deliver. Indie-pop is here to stay.

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