Narrative: Drinking at the Movies is for the most part a narrative told in sequential order, but it normally consists of six panel comics on each page that tell a small complete story before moving on to the next event. The plot gets rolling when the cartoon Wertz’s life in her hometown of San Francisco begins to change for the worse. Finding herself broke, unemployed and freshly dumped by her boyfriend; Wertz seeks to change her life in any way possible by moving to New York. Once in New York, her daily life becomes a mixture of temporary employment, social failure, 30 Rock DVDs, political upheaval and comedy, an ass rash, and romantic stagnation.
Themes: Not much is accomplished in Drinking at the Movies. Instead, the main point of the collection appears to be to set a depressing mood, derive a comedic tone, and ultimately present one person’s microcosm of the downhill rut that America’s 20-somethings have hit. Wertz’s down-trodden anecdotes can be relatable, alarming, or can serve as a cautionary tale. Most importantly however, Wertz never blames anyone but herself for her own position in life, and her guilt and feelings of worthlessness are something that a lot of modern college graduates can relate to. I say this due to the terrible job acquisition rates for college graduates that have been a cold reality for the past several years.
While the whole book may sound like a bore at this point, Wertz does provide comedy at her own expense and also tells multiple comedic stories about her encounters with bums, public urinaters and her alcoholism. Indeed, the theme of the entire book is how to deal with life with a sense of humor when you’re dealt a bad hand; and even more about how to deal with life when it’s you who is screwing yourself over. What kept me interested in the book was how much it felt like a counseling session between two young fuck-ups, the writer and the reader.
Artwork: Julia Wertz presents her cartoon-self in an unflattering manner and is not above using herself as the butt of a few toilet-humor jokes. The Wertz avatar looks different compared to the other characters inhabiting the world, as she has jet black hair, bigger eyes and pupils and a square body type. The other characters mostly look the same depending on if they’re male or female. Normally, only one trait defines any given side-character. The backgrounds are drawn rather simply, and are only there to represent ideas more than specific forms. Overall, you aren’t going to buy this book based on the artwork alone, but the style is at the very least congruous.
Final Words: I find that this book can define the dark side of our generation, just as the Scott Pilgrim series can define the more light-hearted and relationship-oriented side of it. It is told from a cynical, comedic point of view, and that’s the kind I like best. If being depressed and mildly amused suits you, check out this graphic novel.