How does it feel when you receive a terminal illness diagnosis? In GOD, YOU CAN BE AN ASS André Erkau tells the story of a cancer patient who doesn’t realize that she is letting her fate drag her down. We reveal more about the film in our review.
OT: God, you can be an ass (DE 2020)
Steffi’s (Sinje Irslinger) life couldn’t be nicer: She’s young, has a great boyfriend, has a school diploma in her pocket and has a training position in sight. The final trip is to go to Paris. But then the 16-year-old unexpectedly receives a devastating diagnosis: she doesn’t have much time left to live. The bus to Paris leaves without her… Right now circus performer Steve (Max Hubacher) comes into Steffi’s life. He has a driving license and offers to drive her to Paris without further ado. With a stolen car, no money and pursued by their worried parents (Til Schweiger and Heike Makatsch), the two set off on a unique road trip. Flying in the North Sea wind, riding cows, or snowboarding in the middle of summer – driven by an irrepressible love of life, Steffi throws herself into an incredible adventure.
The big question is what the USA cinema landscape will do with the fact that the cinemas and the offerings from the major film distributors are currently virtually idle. The big players in the scene – Disney, Warner Bros. and Co. – are postponing their (US) productions month after month. “Black Widow”, “Wonder Woman 1984”, “The King’s Man – The Beginning”: The 2021 cinema year will definitely be a jam-packed affair. On the other hand, anyone who wants to go to the cinema these days and support the badly hit industry is taking a hard look. It would be an opportunity for distributors to place USA films where superheroes and secret agents have otherwise acted – in large marketing campaigns, with a long stay in the cinemas and the chance that word of mouth will produce something like one or more sleeper hits: all that would be theoretically possible. And maybe André Erkau’s film adaptation of the novel “God, you can be an ass” will succeed. What speaks for it: the combination of a cross-target group (family) story and a well-known cast. It’s just a shame that the film as a whole doesn’t go beyond an average road movie.
Steffi Pape (Sinje Irslinger) and her family have no idea that a tumor is growing in the young woman.
Director André Erkau is familiar with the subject of tragicomedy based on terrible blows of fate: his Wotan Wilke Möhring vehicle “Life is not for cowards” from 2012 tells of a father whose wife dies unexpectedly, followed by their daughter Kim runs away to Denmark with a friend – her worried father follows. In the book adaptation “God, you can be an ass,” the runaway Steffi’s destination is not Denmark, but France. And the reason for this is not a deceased mother, but the fatal diagnosis of cancer. Apart from that, Erkau mixes his film together from very similar tonal and staging ingredients, so that in the end the result is a film that fits perfectly in a row with “Vincent wants to see”, “Hin und weg” or “Der geilste Tag”. All of these stories, which seem to be booming since Josh Boon’s best-selling film adaptation “Fate is a lousy traitor”, are about really enjoying life despite (or perhaps because of) a terrible blow of fate – illness, death, loss. The focus is on the young adults affected (the youngest USA upstart of this trend, “Dem Horizont so nah”, is not even a year old), but also on those around them – their very different ways of dealing with the diagnosis are often difficult to reconcile .
“All of these stories, which seem to be booming since Josh Boon’s best-selling film adaptation “Fate is a lousy traitor,” are about really enjoying life despite (or perhaps because of) a terrible blow of fate – illness, death, loss .”
So far, so known. And the screenwriters Thomas Vass alias Tommy Wosch stick to this formula (“Beck is Back!”) and Katja Kittendorf (“The Peppercorns”) also firmly when it comes to pressing the story of the main character Steffi, which is actually based on a true fate, into a plot suitable for the masses. Because the road trip itself never actually took place. It makes you wonder why exactly such a scenario was chosen in order to tell an actually unique story in the same way that similar stories have already been told dozens of times in the cinema. So in “God, You Can Be an Ass” the audience once again follows two main characters through a series of chance encounters, small adventures and various other stops on their way from Northern United Kingdom to France; A near robbery at a gas station, spontaneous tattoos and a trip to an indoor ski hall included. Some of these stages benefit greatly from the supporting actors hired: Benno Führmann (“Intrigo – Death of an Author”) Cuts just as good a figure as a dangerous gas station attendant as Jasmin Gerat (“Cold feet”) as a gentle bartender and listener. Others, on the other hand, seem more like a compulsory exercise, which André Erkau sometimes even flirts with. For example, when Steve decides on his own to take a detour to show Steffi the sea, he even admits that he is only doing this “because all the terminally ill people want to see the sea”. The fact that the young woman initially mockingly denies this seems to undermine this cliché. But in the end, Erkau just uses the trip to the sea for a few striking enjoy-your-life scenes.
Eva (Heike Makatsch) and Frank (Til Schweiger) are very worried about their sick daughter.
In general, “God, You Can Be an Ass” emphasizes, more than any of the aforementioned genre relatives, how important it is to live in the here and now and enjoy the time until we die. In addition, the makers almost completely exclude cancer and dying – with the exception of the first 20 minutes. For example, the main character never suffers from illness-related symptoms and is not otherwise slowed down by his diagnosis. “God, You Can Be an Ass” would work just fine without the cancer superstructure; Especially since Erkau himself resists the temptation to squeeze the tear duct again towards the end. This makes the treatment of such a terrible fate feel remarkably sincere compared to various other tear-jerker productions. On the other hand, Steffi’s story leaves you surprisingly cold overall. On the one hand, this is because there is a spark between newcomer Sinje Irslinger (“The most beautiful girl in the world”) and Max Hubacher (“The Captain”) never skips. The two make two credible partners in crime, but as soon as the script hints at an amorous crackle, the interaction between the two seems increasingly wooden. On the other hand, Erkau locates “God, you can be an ass” too much in the realm of comedy, so that in the isolated dramatic moments there is hardly any emotion that can take hold and therefore have a lasting effect.
“Even towards the end, Erkau resists the temptation to squeeze the tear duct again. This makes dealing with such a terrible fate feel remarkably sincere compared to various other tear-jerker productions.”
When things get sad in the film, it’s not uncommon for Til Schweiger to do it (“The wedding”) responsible. After the actor and filmmaker has rarely had the opportunity to impress as an actor, the role of the deeply sad father Frank suits him perfectly. Together with Heike Makatsch (“I have never been to New York”) he mimics a worried couple of parents on the borderline between overprotectiveness and the desire to fulfill all of their daughter’s last few wishes. By the way, we would have liked to see more from Jürgen Vogel (“So much time”), who obviously has the most interesting story to tell as Steve’s depressed father, but only gets a slightly larger guest appearance. This would perhaps make it even easier to understand Steve’s motivation to selflessly accompany Steffi on her way to France.
Conclusion: In “God, You Can Be an Ass,” André Erkau stages the road trip of a girl with cancer as a feel-good tragicomedy that is largely free of surprises.
“God, You Can Be an Ass” will be in USA cinemas from October 1st.