After Slim Susie disappears, her brother Erik leaves Stockholm and heads back home in order to find his sister. When he arrives in Värmland, he is greeted by all the weirdos that made him pack up and leave in the first place. Although everyone starts acting even stranger when Erik begins asking around about Susie, and he slowly begins to learn the self-destructive life she lived in his absence. Also that there is more to her disappearance than originally suspected.
"Smala Sussie" or "Slim Susie" is a movie that came recommended from Ronny as being a decent representative of Swedish cinema that is not arthouse or has Christina Lindberg in it. While enjoying it and being annoyed with it at the same time, due to its high popularity, he thought I should check it out all the same since it's apparently better than most of the movies Sweden has turned out. Outside of Bergman, Lindberg and a whole lotta crappy horror movies my viewing experience with Swedish movies is very limited so I figured I'd give this Tarantino inspired comedy-crime flick a chance. What have I got to lose?
"Slim Susie" is about a young man named Erik who returns to Värmland to find his sister, (Slim) Susie. Erik left the small province to pursue a better life in Stockholm but his absence causes his sister to become disjointed and fall in with the wrong crowd of sex, drugs, stolen money and home movies. The further Erik investigates the deeper he gets into seedy underbelly of a quiet community and the more odd characters he finds himself associating with. When the suspects start lining up Erik begins to realize that Susie didn't simply disappear and anyone could be responsible.
"Slim Susie" is a bit generic in its concept: a crime plot involving the usual suspects, money and drugs, with people double crossing one another in order to get the former, the latter or both. Of course none of the people involved are professional criminals and results in absurd comedic moments, often dark in nature, and the bodies start to pile. Again, a bit generic, but it's a style and story that's okay to be rehashed since it can still be enjoyable if the comedy and characters are handled properly, which "Slim Susie" does.
Ulf Malmros and Petteri Nuottimäki did a good job of making each of the characters weird and memorable. Even the normal characters appear to have something a bit off about them and the further the movie progresses the more we learn about each one. It helped to keep the movie interesting instead of having it relay on a twisting story or over stylized filming techniques. The comedy, however, is a bit tricker when it comes to being a Westerner with essentially no understanding of Swedish culture.
The general dark humor of "Slim Susie" works and will work for anyone since it is done well and it fits with the nature of the movie. Other than Erik, the characters in the world of "Slim Susie" are not good people. Not a single one. And a lot of the comedy plays on that theme of bad things happening to bad people -- movies like "Shallow Grave", "Very Bad Things", "Fargo", etc. There's some silliness too but a lot of the comedy boils down to what happens to these weirdos when they decide to become criminals and the primary location of the movie.
This is the part where "Slim Susie" lost me with its comedy and that has everything to do with my simple, tiny American brain. "Slim Susie" takes place in Värmland and, from what I've been told, it is the equivalent of the US's southern states -- the redneck hillbilly kind where everyone walks around saying, "You've got a purty mouth." The populous of Värmland even have their own yokel accent which is something that's hilarious to the rest of Sweden, apparently. This makes one of the key elements of the comedy in "Slim Susie" region specific and, unfortunately, it is something that is completely lost if you are unaware of it. The location even dictates why the characters are the way that they are to a degree but, from my perspective, it came off as simply a collection of eccentrics in a small town.
It doesn't make the movie a total loss but I'm willing to bet that for most of us outside of Scandinavia, it does hinder some of the comedy. Again though, the movie isn't a total loss because it is competent in its story telling and characters. And stylistically, it has a universal appeal to it even if most of the comedy doesn't. It's obvious that "Slim Susie" is inspired by the likes of Tarantino and is hyper-stylized as result. Good or bad, depending on your personal preference. For me, the movie had a tendency to go too over-the-top in trying to create this wild and bizarre world. It works well in some spots but in others it feels like they did too much. Simple shots of characters in a restaurant are shot with warped lenses to give it a distorted look. Unnecessary? I think so but then again it helps keeps things a bit more interesting for the intended audience. For instance, what would be better: having two characters simply walk into a grocery store, or have two character walk into a grocery story singing as if they were in a musical and having the camera spin and twirl around?
Even though my American-ways kept me from understanding and appreciating the full comedic affect of "Slim Susie" and thinking that they took the movie too far in terms of style, I didn't think it was too bad. I guess a better way to put that is I can see why "Slim Susie" is a popular movie in Sweden. It breaks from traditional standards and tries to create this crazy, eccentric movie about bumbling bumpkins becoming criminals and the disastrous results of such a decision. It succeeds for the most part by handling the story and characters well and while I didn't get everything, I was still entertained.
One last thing; I am highly offended by the movie's use of pop culture yet, for some reason, did not have anyone say the line, "Forget it, Erik; it's Värmland." I mean, c'mon! The movie practically begged for this line to be said. Jeez!