The setup of this movie is simple: Scott Pilgrim is a lovesick twenty-something Canadian, still wavering from a breakup that happened months ago, who must defeat seven evil exes to date Ramona, the hottest new girl in town. It feels like one of the ancient classical quests where the hero has to accomplish some tasks to win the fair maiden, but that’s where the similarities end. This is a coming of age story, not a hero’s journey. You think Scott is doing battle with seven evil exes, but the real battle for him is with all the things he had already brought into the relationship—not only the relationship he is having with Ramona, but with every relationship he’s ever had in his life.
Michael Cera is perfect for Scott Pilgrim. He looks like someone who lacks self-esteem, with little self-confidence. Listen to him agonize about his goofy hair! Squirm as he opens the movie by starting a relationship with Knives, a high school girl. Watch as he meets Ramona, quickly realizes his mistake with Knives, but fails to take any decisive action. Yet Pilgrim has all these wonderful talents—mad gaming skills, musical talent, Kung Fu wire fighting. On some level it doesn’t even matter if his movie skills map to any real life skills—he’s meant as an everyman schmuck who has some good to offer the world, but must first find a path to confidence from within himself. If this were the Oprah show, Scott Pilgrim would have to learn the “Greatest Love of All.” Sing it Whitney!
This movie depicts what being in a relationship is like in your late teens and early twenties. All the girls you can get are dull and boring. You only pine after the ones that dump you. Haven’t we all been in the same desert where Scott finds himself? Here he pines for the lovely Envy Adams, the big rock starlet who cruelly dumped him. Envy’s cool quotient is so high Pilgrim may never recover—until Ramona, the next mysterious American cutie comes along! Who doesn’t know the allure of the girl from out of town, who isn’t afraid to mock you or your friends, or changes the color of her hair every week.
But Ramona brings more to the relationship than her many hues of lovely hair: it’s how she comports herself in the relationship with Scott that’s important. Relationship-wise, Ramona is possibly the healthiest of all people who animate this movie—compare her aloofness with Scott to Knives constant mooning over him. Compare Ramona’s ability to stand on her own financially and emotionally to Scott’s leaching off his gay roommate, or his endless pining for Envy. The one surprise in Ramona’s healthy behavior is her coldly dumping Scott for no reason and with no warning, but then we learn this is the result of Gideon having the upper hand (I can’t get him out of my head — No, really!) with the microchip attached to her head. This was my least favorite divergence from the book, but it wasn’t a deal killer for me. Ramona is a really great character.
In the age of 3D movies, this picture is a two dimensional visual feast. I really enjoyed it, but it does suffer from some pacing problems, a sort of plodding second act. But for me, this was more than made up for by the charming ending.