"Cedar Rapids" is awesome. Go see it.
(If you're unfamiliar with the movie, watch the trailer here.) Now at first glance it just seems like a quirky comedy, with a bunch of raunchy humor, and to be fair it has a lot of it (not, ahem, a "family" movie). You've been warned. But if you get passed that (and realize that it all supports the story) you'll see a gem of a movie, you'll see what I see...a rare film that tells the story of a small town midwestern guy, in midwestern culture. It's personal to me because it's also my story, growing up in rural Iowa, living in New York and now Vancouver, I've come to realize it's one that a lot of people who aren't from there just don't understand. Despite our internet connected world, very few people on the coasts understand midwest culture, and more specifically small town culture, unless they originated from it. The reverse can also be said, though I'd argue that mass media and entertainment provide a wider and more frequent view of city life on the coasts. Of course even that is usually from the perspective of a small demographic. And even for people who've relocated from other states to the coasts, many of them may have negative views of their home, as they've found a new place to call home in which for whatever reason they may feel more comfortable. Movies, television shows, and political pundits all play a role in creating modern stereotypes that while may contain truth, also hide it. This movie is different.
This is a movie that neither condemns nor glorifies small town life, small town "folk". It doesn't make fun of those "backwards rednecks", it doesn't succumb to modern stereotypes (mostly) because it was made by people who know, and more importantly have affection for, their roots. This kind of truth comes partly from the fact that many of the actors are from the midwest, the writer is, the director isn't, but he obviously still related to the story. They did this on purpose. (See interview with the director.)
If that was all the movie did I might still like it. But it does even more than that. It's a counterpoint to our jaded, Great Recession (as I've heard it called), cynical selves. The message we get today, I feel, is more often one of bitterness, cynicism. The idea is that in our modern world, there is no room for childish things as hope, faith, and kindness. Who can believe in good, when there is so much bad surrounding us? When monetary greed on wall street leads to people without jobs, when dictators oppress their people, when politicians seek power, when wars are waged on the world and personal level, when the planet is in need of caretaking. To think of any hope, one must be naiive, and naiivety is something to be hammered out in favor of a more "realistic" (read: jaded) view. These things wear on us, they've worn on me, and feed into a greater, emotional, depression. Is it any wonder that the largest previous economic downfall was called The Great Depression? "Cedar Rapids" is a counterpoint to this negativity, because it is a modern story, a believable story, of a guy finding out the world isn't so great or perfect as he thought, not even his own small town, yet finds out that decency and hope isn't lost.
I don't know what you will bring to this movie if you see it, I don't know if you will react to it the same way I did, (and oddly enough we all seem to think that art is objective when it isn't). But at the very least, I felt a deep need to post for anyone who genuinely thinks that if they show up anywhere in the country, a guy in a pickup WILL hold a gun to them and say "We don't like your kind here", for anyone who sees people only by their color...red and blue..., and for any of you who just want a reason to hope again. As well as for those of you who feel alone in your hope. Maybe you can return the favor for me one day.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa. From Wikipedia article on the town. Only exterior shots in the movie were filmed there, but the setting is still present. This isn't my hometown, but I spent a lot of time there.