“I am the king of the echo people.”
– Rubin Farr (played by Crispin Glover)
As an aspiring filmmaker, I’ve seen quite a few movies over my life. After all, one of the best ways to learn is to watch examples from other people’s work. And while there are a lot of remakes and reboots nowadays, each script and film tells a story of it’s own. No two directors or writers are exactly the same, and each has her/his own format and stylings that make them unique.
This applies to everyone and everything. From the lowest budgets or poor storytelling, to even the most expensive modern films with no spirit. One does not assume the other; you can have a large budget and still be pulling out terrible films. The reverse can be applied to low budgets with great films just as easily. There have been so many movies made over the years, that to attempt viewing them all without being told what’s at least moderately worth watching would be a very time consuming task.
However, there are those few woodsmen who bravely hack away at the forest of moving pictures. Those who sharpen their cranial axes against the spinning film reels of the past and present, in search of art worth watching! We toss our climbing ropes into the mass of average viewers to save the innocent from being consumed into mindless drones.
I too have chopped the trunks over the years and discovered this little gem.
Rubin and Ed, released the spring of ’92, may be one of the wildest fever-dream, possibly drug inspired films I have ever seen. Many of you may recognize the lead Crispin Glover as Marty McFly’s father from the Back to the Future series, or perhaps the guy who loses his arm in Hot Tub Time Machine. Glover is partnered with actor Howard Hesseman, who does an absolutely stellar job playing the over-energetic and depressed pyramid scheme puppet. Together the two continue along the story of the film in a strange “Odd Couple” sort of way, with Glover being a super sheltered and awkward cat lover versus Hesseman’s incessant talking.
Their goal? Discover the perfect location to bury Rubin’s long since dead beloved cat.
We begin with Ed desperately in search for a sucker to drag to his fast cash seminar, only to run into the eccentric Rubin Farr. Rubin tricks Ed into driving him to the desert to find a special spot for his dead cat’s final resting place, eventually leaving them stranded in the desert with nothing more than a cooler of rotten cat on ice.
I must warn you, if you attempt to watch this you’re gonna have to really push yourself to actually make it to the end. The film itself is very hit and miss as far as humor and entertainment goes, and the budget was obviously nothing to brag home about. The same can be said about Glover’s character Rubin, his quirks often seeming a little too over the top and poorly executed.
That being said, when watched under the right mindset, Rubin and Ed impressively serves as a pinnacle of artistic expression and symbolism.
Right from the start, we are thrown into the middle of a rich (white) businessman’s powerful speech on how to become the hugely successful entrepreneur that all humans should strive for. He tells us to ask ourselves, “Who are you”, followed with large crowds of chanting repeating brainwashed phrases.
“I am an incredibly powerful salesperson, who continually climbs higher and higher up the ladder of success”
Ed feverishly takes notes on the mans Hilter-esque speech, desperately wanting to become that successful individual. He repeats these phrases throughout the entirety of the film, and tries as hard as he can to make the organization proud by finding new members. This is where fate intervenes: Ed running into the odd and hugely different than him, Rubin Farr.
Throughout the course of their journey, Ed constantly finds himself struggling to become this symbol of human perfection, as his stressful babysitting of carefree Rubin pushes him to extreme bouts of anger and an eventual stroke in the desert. We are shown how much more important something as simple as burying a beloved pet can be versus attempting to reach the top of society: Rubin finds himself extremely content with his way of life, and as the story progresses, his freedom and choice of a simpler life rubs off on Ed. This is only further demonstrated by every single element of design; from the bizarre uniqueness of Rubin’s home and clothing choice, to the bland white walls and suit jackets in the world Ed lives.
There are clear references to the futility of becoming an “echo person”, someone who makes no decisions for themselves and follows others mindlessly. Despite having no shootouts or exploding buildings, the film still succeeds in leaving us with a pleasant sense of individuality that really hits home. The most powerful demonstration comes when the two discover a spray-painted wall reading “Andy Warhol sucks a big one”. Rubin has no clue who Andy Warhol is, Ed scoffing at him for not knowing one of the hugest and well known artists of America.
We ask ourselves, just because somebody is hugely successful, is it really important to follow and worship the lifestyles of others? As long as we’re content with who we are and our decisions, why does it matter?
“It’s not often you find something you really enjoy. Only we enjoy different things. If we didn’t, what would be the point of being different people?”
Jeffry Sweet – Last Day of Camp
Screenwriter: Trent Harris (Because it’s always important to credit the writer)