Tuesday, December 06, 2011


Are You the Favorite Person of Anybody
Directed by Miguel Arteta,Written by Miranda July USA, 4 minutes
Original Link to this post is Here

This film is a about a man (John C. Reilly) who is standing on the street waiting for people to walk by. He is not an innocent bystander, but a man geared with paper and pencil and looking for answers in life--in this case, specifically the answers to the question "Are you anybody's favorite person?" Though we are given little character development as far as why the man is standing on the street waiting for strangers to walk by and take his survey, we learn a lot about the man's personality through his reactions to people's responses.

We are introduced to three strangers, each different in both their sex, race, and comprehension of the question. The first stranger is a woman (the film's writer, Miranda July). She hesitates to answer the question, but due to vanity, she immediately finds an answer when she gazes at the man's mildly judging look. The second stranger to walk past is a man (Mike White), who, when bombarded by the question, answers immediately with a 'no'. After further questioning, the male stranger holds firmly to his beliefs that no one considers him their favorite person and, in return, receives three oranges from Reilly's character. It is at this point that we learn more about Reilly's character--that he has a wife, owns three fertile orange trees, and that he is sympathetic towards others. The third and final stranger to pass by is an immigrant man (Chuy Chavez) who does not have any interest in taking the survey, believing it to be a political vote. This passing character is important to the story line because he questions Reilly's character's existence. As Reilly's character tries to explain to the man that it is not an election vote, he exclaims, "No, that's not what it is about", to which the stranger replies "Yeah, but I don't want to be involved with this, sorry". What is this film about? And should we as viewers be involved? The film successfully makes us want to answer the man's question. Does someone favor me above all others?

I think the setting of this film is very important to the story. As Tyler mentions in his original post, this film is "an experiment in psychology", as the question the man poses is not an everyday question and might be right up there with "Why are we here?" That said, the street is an interesting location for the man to choose as his questioning location. Besides for the three strangers we meet, the street is empty and can be compared to a black hole. When we are introduced to Reilly's character, we see the street in the direction left of him, where all of the strangers enter from. We never see the direction the characters take, and the film just ends with the Reilly's character looking down the street in the direction the strangers head after they answer or block his questions. In many ways, the man's question is impossible to answer, and by not showing the street, we do not know where the characters are coming from or going to, just that they exist.

Although this film amazingly tells a story just by the responses of individuals, we still do not understand why Reilly's character is asking these questions, nor why he is standing in the street wearing a nice suit. We get the impression that he is a working man, who might possibly be in a midlife crisis--is he his wife's favorite person?--but we do not know why he has chosen this street or how far away he lives. His questions leave us wanting more answers. Because we learn a lot about his character through his interactions with the strangers, as well as learn about character traits of the three strangers through their responses, I wonder if a fifth character would provide more character development. The three strangers are all assured in their responses, whether it be 'yes', 'no', or 'I don't want any part in this'. It would be interesting to see a character who answers with an 'I don't know. How can one tell?' It would turn the table on Reilly's character.


Ryan Trent Williams said...

You bring up if a character turned the tables on Reilly's character by asking what the point of the survey is, but doesn't every character almost turn the tables on him by either answering the question with supreme confidence or not answering at all?

To be perfectly honest, that's all I got. I'm not entirely sure what the point of this short was otherwise. Most everything off of Wholphin confuses the crap out of me, even if it raises money for a nonprofit that I volunteer for.

haley schattner said...

I think you make a good point, all of the strangers turn the tables on him, but I guess my main question is, would more characters answering the question by choosing different options, add more character development? I would argue that they would because we learn a lot about Reilly's character with just the few seconds he interacts with Jack White's character.

Alex said...

I agree that I would like to see the tables turned more on Reilly, or at least witness more of a discussion. Can someone really choose a favorite person? Could you put yourself in someones Top 5. This is sort of the same question that getting a new phone plan might make you think about.

Maybe a character could walk by that has pondered the question before? Also, I wonder if Reilly was trying to become Mike White's favorite person by giving him the oranges? Does it say something about Mike's character that he asks for more oranges than he is offered? Is he never satisfied?

I like Haley's observation of the location (street) as a "black hole." Why does it exist? Where does it lead? So many questions...

Cori said...

Is this really a poll or do you think maybe John C. Reilly's character is actually looking for someone to make his favorite person? Perhaps this is really an interview.

Why does he try so hard to get Chuy Chavez's character to answer his question? Why is it so important to him?

GSS said...

Interesting insight into the value of surveys. Does the person asking the question and their manner effect the result? First women appears unsure of her answer and changes her answer to the followup question when pushed. Is it part of the survey to clarify the question for the subject?

Leaves you curious about the 2nd survey person (1st male). He states he has a girl friend since he takes an orange on her behalf, but he does not consider himself to be his girlfriend's favorite, and he is sure about it. Maybe he makes up the girl friend as an excuse for taking the additional orange?

Anastasia Crittenton said...

I think we do get the sense that Reilly does ask this question to more people than just the three and I find it fascinating to leave it up to the audience to imagine why Reilly is doing this in the first place. I somewhat agree with Ryan in the short's point being muddled but I think it's a rather introspective piece. Not only is Reilly asking these people this question and we're perhaps asking it of Reilly, but he's also asking us which is a bit terrifying.

K. Tyler Christensen said...

Ryan, I totally value your point. In a way just by Reilly posing the question it's a projection of self- interest, or gnosis. He's trying to get at himself more than he is these strangers.

Haley, I'm so glad that you reposted this film. It struck me, however opaque it may be, because I'm a psychology nerd first and I find that oftentimes the questions people pose to one another (the more interrogative and less conversational kind) have more to do with the individual. I also think that the intimate nature of this question really requires the individual to think. It's not such an easy question to answer. One can think of who their favorite people are, but it's a challenge to consider the flip side of the question.

Jessica Mailander said...

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned the relationships brought up by the people who answered the first two questions (the woman and Jack White). In both cases there is hinting that when considering who would think of you as their favorite person, the go-to choice is a lover. The woman says she is her ex-girlfriend's favorite, and Jack White's character mentions that he has a girlfriend, which to me was put in to emphasize the sadness of his situation even more: if you're confident that you're not even your girlfriend's favorite...don't you deserve three oranges? (Or something.) So I think it's also about how we're conditioned to think about who would view us as their "favorite" and maybe our expectations for a romantic relationship...I mean did anybody think Jack White's relationship with his girlfriend can't be very good? Or that that woman should get back together with her ex? I tried to resist that temptation but I don't know if I succeeded.

Rdana said...

I left this movie sad, thinking, am I someone's favorite person, as each of the characters are put on the spot, there is a deeper question as to who and what are we? Lots of questions , why is Reilly asking this question on what appears to be an isolated location with merely the three people who walk by , it looks like California , no one walks they all drive , why do a survey on a street where there are no people?

haley schattner said...

So many great questions all of you are posing. It is difficult to answer why he would choose such an isolated street or why romantic relationships are the default answer. On the other hand, maybe Reilly's character has chosen the location because he does not want to know the answer of the question, because then it gets flipped back on him. As for the romantic relationships, maybe the film is just exploring the connections in people's live. At a certain point, a partner or lover is the person that should understand and complete you the most, if they don't fancy you as their favorite, who will?
As for GSS comment, I am not sure whether he has a girlfriend or he just wanted another orange, either way, he must feel a void in his life if he considers that for a excuse for an additional orange.