It is sad when a filmmaker as wonderful as Tom Dicillo has to scratch and fight to get his movies made. It's not as though his pictures are expensive, or controversial, or even particularly alienating to the everyday movie watcher. I don't know what it is about Dicillo or his work that scares producers, but somehow he/it does, and as frustrating as it is for a fan of his to have to wait for, perhaps ever, to see another example of his work, it must be exponentially more angering for Dicillo himself.
Johnny Suede is Dicillo's first picture, and it is vastly different from his others. It has a style that, while I'm sure it wasn't completely intentional, is reminiscent of Jim Jarmusch's, whom Dicillo did camera work for in the beginning of his career. That in mind, Johnny Suede is nothing like the cover advertises it to be. It is not “hip” as Peter Travers would put it, and it is in no way a typical Brad Pitt movie. Pitt took this role before he was a star, and his performance is ambitious (as I suppose a lot of his roles are), and strangely self-defacing. I sense a sort of confliction between what Dicillo intended for Pitt's character, and what actually came out, and while that is often a bad thing (and is sometimes here), in a film as unique as Johnny Suede, it works for the picture, creating an odd sort of tension that makes it feel like no other film before it, or since.
At times, Johnny Suede is slow and trying, and for those viewers with a weak stomach for distinctly independent cinema, it's probably best to stay away from it. Also, if you've seen Dicillo's other work, and liked it, you may walk away from Suede feeling disappointed, as though you came to see a different movie than what you got. But I see the good in what Dicillo has accomplished with his first picture. There are scenes and bits of dialogue that are so real (“it feels like you're trying to pick up a watermelon seed”), that at times I feel truly connected to the film as I do with his other work. Dicillo has a way of seeing the world in a very human way, and even though his pictures usually take place just to the left of that reality, his understanding of human nature is so distinct, that I feel a resonance with it beyond what I do with other directors. When Tom Dicillo writes a happy ending into one of his movies, it's one that is well deserved and not cliché as though he has true affection for the characters he creates, and appreciates the trials that he puts them through.
I will not, however, say that Johnny Suede has a happy ending; that remains for the viewer to see and decide for themselves. I will say that it has an ending that is worth sitting through the film for, even if you are only half-enjoying it.