Norwegian filmmakers Nini Bull Robsam and Patrik Syversen take the basic premise of Takashi Miike’s “Audition” — the notorious 1999 horror-thriller about a lonely widower who pretends to be casting a movie while seeking a new companion — and playfully transform it into a scenario for cheeky romantic comedy in “You Said What?” Reports indicate that this high-concept, lightly entertaining pic already is being considered as material for an American remake, but it could easily find its own appreciative aud in offshore markets with sufficiently savvy marketing.
After discovering the flagrant infidelity of his live-in girlfriend, Glenn (Henrik Thodesen), an affable vidstore clerk, moves out of their apartment and sinks into a deep blue funk. Hoping to cheer him up, his more rambunctious buddies, led by the chronically smart-alecky Philip (Odd-Magnus Williamson, in “Meatballs”-era Bill Murray mode), encourage Glenn to borrow a page from Takashi Miike and hold auditions for an imaginary movie, in the hope of landing, if not a new love, then some easy sex.
Complications arise when Glenn instantly falls for one of the auditioners, Linda (Marte Germaine Christensen), and promises her a lead role in what he unwisely promises will be an epic fantasy adventure. (Think “Lord of the Rings” on a “Plan 9 From Outer Space” budget.) Trouble is, even with Linda’s well-do-to mother onboard as a silent investor, Glenn and his friends are hard pressed to actually to make the epic — or any other pic — especially after they blow most of the budget on pre-production partying.
As the would-be filmmakers proceed on their frayed-shoestring budget, attracting credulous collaborators and desperately disguising their inexperience, “You Said What?” often recalls the more frantic improvisations of the title character in Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood.” And much as the self-deluding schlockmeister of Burton’s pic relied on the collaboration of an aged Bela Lugosi, the faux auteurs here bet everything on negotiating a one-day cameo by Peter Stormare to make their slapdash project slightly more marketable.
Filmmakers Robsam and Syversen artfully juggle a diversity of tones and moods while playing mostly everything for laughs, even tweaking the romance that is the soft center of their pic with a soundtrack of splendidly cheesy ’70s and ’80s pop hits.
There are darkly comic touches, and one or two gags that, in this context, seem almost subversively perverse. But there’s nothing funnier than the gleefully outrageous scene in which the game Stormare maintains a straight face and a menacing demeanor while carefully balancing himself atop a papier-mache dragon and snarling, “I am the King of Darkness!”
Tech credits overall are a great deal more impressive than what appear in the film within the film.