Clapping For The Wrong Reasons – Donald Glover (dir, Hiro Murai)


The title is a Catcher In The Rye reference. J. D. Salinger’s protagonist scourges people for going to the movies, assumes that people are idiots, and that “people always clap for the wrong reasons.” With his internet released short, Donald Glover offers an alternative. This new breed of movie is far removed from the silver screen musicals that Holden Caulfield scolded; this film is not narrative led, character driven, or forces a viewer to have any strong feelings towards anything.

It is a slow burner. There are threads of a story: a girl wakes up Donald by tapping at his window, he follows her, nobody knows who she is or seems to be able to see her. The mysterious girl weaves in and out of the morning after a party, in the swimming pool, in the garden, in the house. Donald raps with his friends, dances, philosophizes, makes music and swims – generally just HANGS OUT. Some trademark personal stories later, and it is night, Donald flops onto his bed in the same position as we found him that morning.

The film is a 24 minute music video, a gorgeous hi-definition ad as an antidote to the hangover of the Cali lifestyle. Simplicity is significant. For the most part, the actors are amateurs, the location could be Glover’s house, and there is simple single camera work. A slow mumble-core narrative, similar to blah blah blah Girls, which is no surprise, considering that a cameo in the second season is Glover’s most recent TV work. He has always championed honesty and attempted to tell real stories, to “make everything for everyone, always.” There is no reason why this character and the events could not be autobiographical, other characters refer to him as his rapper alter ego Childish Gambino; the day’s events could be taken straight from Donald’s diary.

Donald Glover is the nucleus of creative talent who writes, stars in, and provides the music for the film. However, we are led through his vision by a different hand, director Hiro Murai, whose previous work includes early episodes of Funny or Die’s game changer Drunk History, and more recently, Earl Sweatshirt’s Chum. Y’know, the one with the giant toads. Murai creates a gently unsettling mood, usually shooting the action from afar, or not necessarily lighting the subject so that it is obvious to an audience where our attention is supposed to be. Jumping from slow motion to normal speed, capturing earth, water, fruit, and fire to hip hop, poetry and Donald Glover spitting licks.

Clapping…, also brings to mind Spike Jonze and Kanye West’s We Were Once A Fairytale, in which the rapper rips a tiny creature from his stomach during a heavy night, only for the creature to plunge a similar knife into his own guts, to the climax of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. It’s dramatic. Here, however, there is only one occasion that hits you in the stomach. The film’s ‘third act’ moment comes when a homie points out Glover’s nosebleed. He runs to the bathroom and yanks a tooth out of his throat, hung down his gullet with dental floss. Did the mystery girl lose it there? We never find out.

Donald Glover is a promising talent; free mixtapes are regularly available at his website, cameos on almost every critically acclaimed comedy show on US TV, and a successful stand up career. Glover is a master of side projects and can add this charming film to his ever increasing repertoire, whilst focusing on his own upcoming series Atlanta. Donald Glover was a promising talent, now it’s paying off.

- guest-blogger, TOM IVIN

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