Movie Thoughts: Marcel the Shell With Shoes On

Adrien Carver
3 min readJul 26, 2022

The trailer made this look pretty pedestrian, like Spike Jonze but even less self-aware of its own hipster sanctimoniousness. I’d never heard of the viral video back in 2010.

My impressions were, once again, wrong. This is a good movie. Surprisingly emotionally arresting. I teared up several times, not expecting to. It seems silly given the subject matter — all these swallowed tears over the fate of a one-inch seashell with a googly eye. There is a death scene involving a beam of sunlight that’s among the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. The film betrays the odd flash of hipster snobbishness and elitism (“What a sad kind of idiot”) but nothing that throws off its aim. These little shells are very human.

The movie overheats on its own preciousness only occasionally — a too-long scene where Marcel sings the Eagles, for example. Everyone mumbles in poetic indie nerdspeak, never stumbling, every “um” calculated, every poignant observation sonically pristine through the best mic the sound department could buy, every mouth movement and lip smack crisply audible. But overall it is shot, performed and written very tastefully and adeptly. This movie has heart, and it shows you its heart, and the heart is bigger than the sum of its pretentiousness — a kind of pretentiousness that stopped being youthfully relevant in 2009. The basic plot is very simple to understand, and it doesn’t give you the same “celebrity is the only reason to exist and you will never be happy unless lots and lots of strangers pay attention to you” message that the trailer has. There’s a few too many tears shed — we get it, life has its deep sadnesses and fears, but those kinds of moments lose their impact if overused— but when it gets emotional it’s very realistic, very appropriate to the plot and very well-executed. It’s all very L.A., but it’s the more tolerable side of L.A., the side that says, “I know I’m a narcissistic ass but I’m trying to be better.”

Jenny Slate. I never liked her, always got desperate hipster bitch vibes off her. I knew her from all those Vh1 shows where C-listers comment on old pop culture trends. I remember her “… and I fuckin love you for it” SNL debacle. She does a lot of voice work, including the villain in a Disney movie. She seems desperate for a level of fame she’ll never achieve. But she does her job here. Dear Lord, does she do her job. I forget it’s “her”, which is the entire point of acting. When the character’s onscreen, I should automatically think, “There’s…