Critical Film Studies (2011)
It was my friend Abed's birthday.
I had met Abed at community college almost two years earlier.
His obsession with pop culture had always alienated him.
He'd quote movies, pretend his life was a TV show.
He watched Cougar Town.
It was as if he didn't want people to like him.
Then this year, around Christmas, he had some kind of...
I don't know... mental episode, saying people were made of clay... stuff like that.
He'd seemed okay since, but when I asked him if he'd like to do anything for his birthday, he told me we should have dinner, just he and I, for an important conversation.
It made me nervous.
The restaurant Abed had chosen wasn't his style at all.
There were cloth napkins, no TVs.
Abed liked chicken fingers, video games, Quentin Tarantino.
Babysitting him through a full meal at a restaurant for grown-ups...
I just wasn't up for it.
But I loved Abed. Everyone did.
So I had come there with a surprise plan of my own.
Hey, uh, could I get a MacAllan, neat?
I like your sweater.
Did it come with a Golden Retriever?
You look good too.
I would like a, uh... spritzer.
Abed was being weird.
And by that, I mean he wasn't being weird.
He was hugging, smiling, making eye contact, and in 30 seconds, he hadn't made a reference to anything.
I had come in worried about him, thinking he needed help.
But seeing him like this made me more worried than ever.
Get it? Like Pulp Fiction.
It's a wallet that says "Bad mother..."
Your table's ready, gentlemen. Thank you.
Actually, uh, I had an idea.
I saw a very cool burger place just a few...
Nonsense. I didn't come downtown for burgers.
Uh, I-I'll be right there.
Hey, uh, we're running a little bit late...
No big deal, just a small speed bump.
Well, hurry up. We're waiting.
Guys, no! They're running late.
That was Jeff. He says there's some kind of speed bump.
Pierce, nobody can hear you.
Well, I'm hot, and my balls are touching the zipper!
Can you imagine the expression on Abed's face when he walks in?
Of course we can imagine it. It's always the same.
Yeah, but he's gonna say "cool" at least five times.
It's really great of Jeff to put this together.
I'm not jealous.
Oh, cool, someone got him a briefcase, like in the movie. What's in it?
Hey, don't touch that!
It's from Jeff, and he says nobody but Abed can open it.
Why? What's in it?
What, I have 3D vision now?
Yes, you do. You don't know me!
Everybody just be patient and don't mess with anything.
I am responsible for this diner when my boss isn't around.
She will not stop bragging about that.
Has anyone seen this movie we're referencing?
Am I the hero or the love interest?
Pulp Fiction? Yeah, I saw it on an airplane.
It's cute. It's a 30-minute film about a group of friends who like cheeseburgers, dancing, and the Bible.
Jeff's not better than me. Hmm?
I said, "hmm."
Boy, is this menu stuffy.
I don't know about you, but I'd rather have a nice...
Rillettes de saumon, to start, I think, and, ooh, squab.
Very good. They don't have quail.
Good to know. Salad.
Excellent choice. Yeah, I nailed it.
Um, you forgot this in the bar.
Ah, so I did. I'm sorry.
What a thoughtful gift, Jeff.
I really was a man of singular taste.
Was? Abed, what's going on?
Why are you dressed like Mr. Rogers and talking like Frasier? What happened to you?
Oh, where to begin.
I probably mentioned in the past my fondness for a TV program called Cougar Town.
Here and there.
I even started a Cougar Town fan club on Facebook.
Not to accomplish anything, mind you.
Simply to express my love for the show.
Well, it ended up being quite large, this fan club, and, uh, one morning, I think it was maybe early March, I got this Facebook message...
A very nice message from the people who make Cougar Town.
Looking for work? No, thanking me, Jeff... you know, for all the support I generated for the show.
And in the last paragraph, they said, "If you'd like, you could come visit the set," just like that.
Well, that's cool of them. Mm-hmm.
I guess that kind of makes them the Pulp Fictions of people.
Man, how great was that movie.
Yeah. So I sold a few of my action figures, and I bought a round-trip ticket to Los Angeles.
Wait, you went? When? Over spring break.
What could I do? Two days after I got that invitation, I was on the set of Cougar Town, Jeff.
Look, if you want me to take it seriously, stop saying its name.
You laugh, Jeff, but the people were wonderful, you know, not just the actors, but the crew, everyone.
There must have been 200 people, each with a specific function, but all dedicated to a single purpose.
It was like a village or like a living thing.
And, you know, I'm talking to the director, and he says, "Why don't you jump into the background?"
I say, "Nah, wait a minute.
Jump into the background of what exactly?"
And he says, "Jump into the background of this scene.
Walk through it. Walk through Cougar Town."
Well, before I can react, this girl takes me by the hand, and she stands me behind this patio where Courtney Cox and the actors are doing their scene.
And the girl says, "Now, when you hear 'action,'
I want you to walk from here to there," right?
That's when I really started to panic, Jeff, because if I'm a person that watches Cougar Town, how can I be in Cougar Town?
You know, and the more I start thinking about it, the less any of it makes any sense at all.
And I just want to turn and run, but it's too late, because the director's calling "action."
So before I take my first step, I realize that I have to stop being someone who's ever seen the show and become a character on the show.
Become a man from Cougar Town...
You know, someone born there, someone whose name, I decide, is Chad.
And I take my first step, as a child might, learning to walk as Chad.
And with each step, it becomes easier.
And with each step, I start remembering things from Chad's life, like his first kiss under the big tree at Cougar Town field...
Playing soccer at Cougar Town Junior High...
Finding my first chest hair in the shower, my first apartment, my first true love falling for my best friend, birthdays, weddings, car crashes, taxes, playing charades at Thanksgiving.
Chad had lived, Jeff.
You know, Chad had lived more than Abed.
And then they called "cut," and the scene was over.
But I wasn't ready to stop being Chad, so I said to the director, "Can we have one more take?"
But they were already moving on.
Courtney had nailed it.
My lips started trembling, and my... my hands and my feet went numb.
My... my knees buckled, and as I fell to the floor...
I pooped my pants.
Because the truth is, Jeff, I had been Chad, and Chad was dead.
But as Abed, I was still alive, so someone helped me up.
And the wardrobe lady came over. She gave me new pants.
I thanked everyone, I apologized, and then I just got on a bus and went straight to the airport.
Um, your food's getting cold.
Oh, how silly of me.
Wondering if Abed's new best friend also got him the best gift?
I got Abed the best gift.
I'd tell you what it is, but it's an even cooler secret.
Britta, you promised that this private party would be done by 8:00.
You're doing this during the peak business hours for nostalgic-themed diners.
Oh, is that true? Has that been researched?
It has, Annie.
After they get frightened by the evening news, many seek the comforting foods and soothing music of a pre-racial America.
I'll give you all of my tips from my next shift.
Oh, your tips.
All your tips? Wait, wait, all of them?
Like, all the tips the customers leave for you?
Wow, is there any way we can go ahead and spread that out over two years so I don't get slammed on my taxes?
Oh, my goodness.
Everyone hates Britta. Mm.
Of course, you know the real point of that story.
I don't, but that's okay. Chew.
The point is, I'd been a fool.
Nah, everybody poops their pants.
No, no, no, I was a fool long before that.
You know, I look back at my life and I think, "Who was that?
Why did he care so much about so many things that didn't matter?"
Yeah, who needs Cougar Town?
Who needs any pop culture whatsoever?
TV, movies... to hell with all of it.
You know what I was, Jeff? I was that wallet.
On the surface, a reference to some cinematic drivel, but on the inside... empty.
But you love Tarantino. No, no, not anymore.
That's why I wanted to have this dinner with you.
This is the first birthday of my new life.
You know, the wallet's cute, Jeff, but I'd like to exchange it for a better gift.
I'm not leaving here until you've given me my first real conversation.
Okay, you want to have a real conversation?
Here's as real as I get under the circumstances.
It's nice that you've learned to dial back your love of TV.
But I'd really like you to come have a milkshake with me.
But before you do, I'd like you to remember how much you enjoy Pulp Fiction.
Now, that's as far as I can go without defeating the purpose.
I'm really tilting the bean can here.
Pulp Fiction, milkshakes, bean cans?
Listen to how we talk to each other.
We're like robots exchanging catchphrases and references.
And you think pointing that out counts as a real conversation?
You know how many fake people are talking about how fake the world is right now?
Okay, well, I'm new at this, so can you start our real conversation?
I don't believe there's such a thing.
Conversation was invented by humans to conceal reality.
We use it to sweet-talk our way around natural selection.
You know who has real conversations? Ants.
They talk by vomiting chemicals into each other's mouths.
They get right down to brass tacks.
Blehh! "Which way's the picnic?"
Blehh! "That way."
Humans are more evolved. We lie.
Not all the time. That's a lie.
We don't lie when we're alone. Biggest lie ever.
Nine out of ten lies occur six inches away from the bathroom mirror.
We do most of our lying alone.
How's it even possible to lie when you're alone?
You can call a phone-sex line.
That's lying to yourself. No, that's just being honest with a stranger about being lonely.
What if you're dishonest about why you're lonely?
What if you're a good-looking guy who calls a phone-sex line and tells them he weighs 400 pounds, just so he can hear a woman say she's attracted to him anyway?
I don't believe that happens. Wrong. That's me.
I did that last week.
Why would you pay a woman on the phone to think you're fat?
Because I'm scared that if I were overweight that no one would like me.
God, that feels good to admit.
Abed, the point being...
The point being, you don't have to worry about being normal or... or real or whatever this is tonight.
The world is a sick place full of sick, sick people.
Can I tell you something I've never told anyone else?
It's got to be so cool, whatever he got him.
You know what I'm saying. Winger's a man of means.
He's with your boy right now having a fancy dinner.
Baby chickens, diamond forks, brand-name sodas.
Then he's gonna bring him back here, give him whatever's in there, and that's that.
Is that what I think it is?
Certificate of authenticity...
He must have got it on eBay or something.
Jeff got Abed the actual briefcase from the movie Pulp Fiction!
What are you guys doing?
Chang made me open it!
He seduced me with his dark Chinese powers.
Why do you leave him alone with me?
Guys, I am putting my job on the line for this stupid party, and the least you can do is not ruin it.
Dude, I know I'm preaching to the choir, but you are a bad friend.
I'll kill you!
And I said, "No, that's a girl's costume."
And my mom said, "It's fine.
Indian boys have long hair and braids too."
There was only 45 minutes left to trick-or-treat, so what could I do?
I put the damn thing on, and I went door-to-door.
And everyone was going, "Oh, what a pretty little girl."
And by the third house...
I stopped correcting them.
I mean, why draw attention to it?
And, honestly, once the shame and the fear wore off...
I was just glad they thought I was pretty.
God, this is incredible...
I mean, to be able to talk this openly.
I mean, why can't people be like this?
I mean, what's wrong with this world?
What do you want?
So this is what you're doing while we wait.
Just go home, Pierce. The party's canceled.
Pretty gay, man. Pretty gay.
Why is Pierce dressed as the gimp from Pulp Fiction?
The wallet, milkshakes...
Did you set up a surprise Pulp Fiction birthday party?
Yeah, at the greasy fork, but that doesn't matter now.
What matters is this... talking.
It everything okay?
Uh, yes. Just the check, please.
Oh, I'm sorry. So you're ending early?
Because in my dinner with Andre, the waiter brings... Check, check, check. Bye.
What's my dinner with Andre?
It's just a movie about, uh, two guys talking at a restaurant.
So this wasn't...
A real conversation?
You were doing another movie?
A movie about a real conversation.
Did you poop your pants on the set of Cougar Town?
That shouldn't matter.
This is why we don't hang out!
Well, thanks for getting me fired, jerks.
The party's over. Cool. Cool. Cool, cool, cool.
Yeah, it is.
Do you guys know where Abed's really cool present is?
Because I'm returning it.
Um, it's back at the diner. It's fine.
It probably just needs some detailing.
Man, I really wish you two got along better.
Ooh, no-no juice.
Ah, that's good no-no juice.
For the damages if you promise to give Britta her job back.
$800, and she stays fired.
Annie told me about the briefcase.
Thank you. What a waste.
Did you buy it from Willy's 100% Authentic Cinema Treasures on eBay?
Yep. Yeah, Willy exaggerates.
I got Indiana Jones' real whip from him.
He moves about 70 of those a year.
Oh, good. I thought I flushed a bunch of money down the toilet.
But it's great to know that the real Pulp Fiction briefcase is safe somewhere.
You're mad at me.
I spent a week planning a party just to make you happy.
And then I bailed on the party and ruined it, again, just to make you happy.
Then it turns out, while I was wasting my time trying to make you happy, you were making yourself happy all over everyone else by doing yet another stupid movie spoof.
I prefer the term "homage."
It wasn't about making me happy.
I chose my dinner with Andre, because it's about a guy who has an unexpectedly enjoyable evening with a weird friend he's been avoiding lately.
You think I've been avoiding you?
You and I hung out more last year.
It makes sense.
Everyone else is growing and changing all the time, and that's not really my jam.
I'm more of a fast-blinking, stoic, removed, uncomfortably self-aware type...
Or Johnny-5 or Mork or Hal or K.I.T.T. or K-9...
Or Woodstock and/or Snoopy.
Of course, Spock probably goes without saying...
Abed, I don't need you to grow or change.
And take it from someone who just had a meaningless one, sometimes emotional breakthroughs are overrated.
And, seriously, I need you to keep a tight, heavy lid on the "Little Indian Girl" story.
Sure. Tight, heavy lid.
Because nobody paid for dinner at the restaurant, and I do not have this kind of money.
I went back to pay the bill.
The restaurant was closed.
Surprise. It was Abed's idea.
The group had stayed behind to salvage the party.
The waiter had felt bad for spilling the beans about Abed's homage, so he let us stay.
As parties go, it was quiet, dark, and a little lame.
We'd had better parties, and we'd had worse parties.
But I doubt I'll ever forget my dinner with Andre dinner with Abed.
Thanks. Abed, please...
Allow me. Okay. Thanks.
Let me see.
Mm, that's not good.
They said "market price."
What market are you shopping at?
I'm going to run.
Me too. Okay.
On three. One...