A Hilarious & Insightful Take on Delusional Positivity
Home Movie Reviews The Subtle Art of Not Giving a #@%! Review: A Hilarious & Insightful Take on Delusional Positivity
Mark Manson skewers narcissism, entitlement, and inflated self-esteem in a documentary adaptation of his best-selling book.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a #@%! takes the best-selling book to the big screen as a refreshing and pertinent documentary. Author Mark Manson narrates his philosophical theory on the dangers of “delusional positivity.” He liberally drops f-bombs while telling his life story intertwined with critical analysis of societal psychological malaise. Director Nathan Price keeps Manson at the forefront but spices up the narrative with archival footage, newsreels, pop media, and original animation. The result is a clever and insightful journey into the human condition. We are not special and that’s okay.
Manson floats in a pool sipping a cocktail while an elderly man gets CPR in the background. Synchronized swimmers dance flirtatiously around him. Manson comments that “happiness is a problem.” Don’t fret, he’s not a doomsayer preaching negative diatribe. Manson’s point is that we’ve been taught to embrace narcissism and entitlement. You’re unique. No one else is like you. Feeling good about yourself is the definition of fulfillment. Manson, accompanied by humorous montages, begs to differ.
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Fear of Intimacy and Commitment
The author recounts a troubled youth growing up in Texas. He was an outcast that did drugs and listened to heavy metal music. At thirteen, he’s arrested at school and saddens his beloved mother. Six months later, his parents are divorced. He’s alone, bullied, and utterly adrift. What happens next transforms him into a despicable person. His fear of intimacy and commitment spawns a repulsive cheater. He thrives on the rush of new experiences. Running away on a years-long global sojourn to hide uncomfortable truths about his personality.
Manson equates false happiness to an algorithmic equation where a “carrot is always dangling.” Get a better job, make more money, buy lots of stuff, and dreams will come true. Everyone realizes sooner or later this is categorically false. Manson believes true happiness comes from addressing and solving your problems. Humanity suffers from the same issues. He comically notes that “99.9% of people suck at what they do.” Immersing yourself with false ideals of the “0.01%” on social media, TV, and movies inevitably leads to crushing disappointment. Inflated self-importance and esteem comes crashing down when those impossible goals are never met.
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It’s not all anecdotal. Manson effectively uses historical examples and science to illustrate his views. My favorite is his exploration of heavy metal guitarist Dave Mustaine. One of Metallica’s founding members, he was unceremoniously booted from the band after their first album. Mustaine would find incredible success with Megadeth. Selling millions of records and touring packed arenas for decades. But Megadeth was never as popular or respected as Metallica. Mustaine achieved his dream and was still unhappy. Manson coins the term “victimhood entitlement.” You have everything. It’s still not enough.
Embrace Problems and Self-Doubt
Price (The Insiders Guide to Love) does a great job balancing tone. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a #@%! is humorous without insult. Manson isn’t denigrating anyone’s pain or angst. These are universal traits that bind us all. His message is to thoughtfully embrace problems and self-doubt. Manson gets a bit preachy but makes a valid argument. Facing the ugly and negative leads to consequential change. Then what you actually give a #@%! about has lasting meaning.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a #@%! is a production of GFC/Fightertown, General Film Corporation, and Ingenious Media. It is currently in limited theatrical release from Universal Pictures.