Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Independent

The Independent; mockumentary/ satire/ comedy, USA, 2000; D: Stephen Kessler, S: Jerry Stiller, Janeane Garofalo, Max Perlich, Billy Burke, Ron Howard, Roger Corman, Peter Bogdanovich, Larry Hankin, Ben Stiller, Ted Demme, Karen Black

Morty Fineman is a B-film director who went bankrupt after making hundreds of films over a span of three decades. His studio is located in a motel, whereas his loyal associates are his daughter Paloma and assistant Ivan. Seeing a chance to make a comeback, Morty accepts the invitation of a mass serial killer behind bars, who only wants to sell his right for a movie biography to him - yet only under the condition that it becomes a musical. When the killer is killed, Morty decides to quit the film business. However, a film festival in Nevada invites him to host his films, thereby giving him new popularity.

Stephen Kessler's "The Independent" is a satirical ode to losers and uses the B-film director Fineman - a sort of blend of Ed Wood, R. Meyer and Roger Corman - as an analogy for a wider context of the small surviving outside the mainstream system. It flip-flops between a mockumentary and a "normal" film narrative, yet one cannot quite shake away the feeling as if it could have been better suited as a short, since the later half of the film already exhausted a good deal of the burlesque jokes and instead reached for unnecessary dramatic moments of Fineman's relationship with his ex-wife and daughter Paloma, played here with a fantastic energy by Janeane Garofalo, who is a small jewel. Likewise, a fair share of jokes backfires, such as the insipid clips from Fineman's (fictional) video for painting or (fictional) film about a friendship between a boy and a whale, wherein the producers switched the whale with a police officer (Ben Stiller in a cringe worthy cameo). Despite its restrictions, "The Independent" has its moments, including cameos from real directors who comment on Fineman's films, such as Peter Bogdanovich or Roger Corman in person, whereas at least one joke brings down the house: it is a clip from Fineman's action flick "Bald Justice", where the bald bodyguards battle the villains with long hair, who have kidnapped the (bald) president. Right afterwards, Ron Howard - in a brave self-ironic move - takes away his hat, revealing his bald head, and then comments on the film, saying how he did not understand it when he was a kid (and had hair), but how it has "grown" on him as an adult (now that he is bald), in a scene that is comedy gold.


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