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|Man in the Chair|
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir-scr Michael Schroeder|
with Christopher Plummer, Michael Angarano, M Emmet Walsh, Robert Wagner, Joshua Boyd, Mitch Pileggi, Mimi Kennedy, Allan Rich, George Murdock, Margaret Blye, Ellen Geer, Taber Schroeder
release US 7.Dec.07, UK 25.Jan.08
Generation gap: Angarano and Plummer
A moody, inventive style and some intriguingly provocative themes help carry us through filmmaker Schroeder's somewhat corny story about an odd couple who come of age at opposite ends of life.
Flash Madden (Plummer) is an obnoxious drunk, a retired film lighting expert who spends his time watching old movies and annoying everyone around him. Meanwhile, the 16-year-old Cameron (Angarano) also lives on the fringe, in trouble with just about everybody and finding refuge in the same retro movie house, where he meets Flash and enlists his help in making a student short film. Cameron's filmmaking buddy (Boyd) is a bit sceptical when Flash brings in all his has-been pals to help, including an Oscar-winning writer (Walsh) and a successful but pushy producer (Wagner).
There's a clear autobiographical feel to this film, with characters who have a deep love of cinema history and Cameron's aspiration to be a director, the man in the chair. And the fact that Hollywood tends to push aside its most gifted craftsmen adds a potent topicality, echoed in the general observations about the shoddy state of nursing homes in America. These people are left to just fade out even though they have plenty to add to a "throwaway society" that's obsessed with youth and beauty.
This strong theme is so well-played by Plummer and company that it's a shame the script is so simplistic. The constant film references are great fun, but the movie is also packed with cliched dialog ("The glitter ends at La Brea") and plot contrivances (Cameron's run-ins with the law), plus a storyline that gets increasingly sentimental. There's also rather too much snappy teen slang in a strained attempt to show the generation gap.
That said, Schroeder keeps things fresh with a jittery editing style and soulful music, plus some terrific scenes in which the oldsters spring to life as they find something to do for a change. It's a bit of a pity that the actual shooting of Cameron's short is shown in a brief montage, because it should be the payoff for the whole story. Instead, Schroeder leads us into a few more themes and then a weepy climax that we saw coming all along.
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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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