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‘Dancing With The Wildman
Sundance – Day 2
“Can we just follow the spandex?!”
Fueled by my daily film festival shots of Airborne and Emergen–C (yes, I know they’re both basically placebos high in vitamin C. But it reassures me; therefore it’s doing its placebo best for me). Anyway, I get a quick start to…watch a screener ofDouchebag.
Drake Doremus’ Douchebag is another entry in the tried and true film festival “go-tos”: The Road Movie. ‘Sam’ is a week away from getting married when his fiancée’ ‘Steph’ decides to take it upon herself and surprise him by fetching his estranged younger brother, who previously was not planning on attending. The reunion is unpleasant at best, but the brothers try to put a happy face on it for her sake. With the younger brother, ‘Tom’ suffering he slings and arrows of Sam’s opinions regarding practically every thing that he does. Boorish, controlling, and rude, Sam is a prize to be sure.
That is until Tom reveals he has only had one true love in his life – in 5th grade. Hearing this news Sam makes it his mission to help his younger brother find the girl again. And thus, the road part of our road movie begins as the brothers seek out women that share the same name of Tom’s flame with the hope of find romance in a haystack.
Meanwhile, Steph, already holding the bag for the wedding prep is discovering clues that maybe somebody she’s engaged to isn’t quite ready for the big step. And on the road, his older brother’s acting out more and more appalls Tom.
Douchebag is the kind of film that fills you with increasing dread as it builds to likely obvious conclusions. The kind where you watch people make mistakes and sabotage themselves in real time. What Doremus gets right is not overdoing the melodrama. Just because it’s intimate, doesn’t mean it isn’t devastating – and he obviously gets that. But, at the same time, this is a cautionary recommend because I think you have to really be up for a movie like this to appreciate it. It’s not an automatic on the enjoyment front. But then again, I don’t think it’s meant to be either.
SUNDANCE FEVER: Rather than love, this is the kind of film you “appreciate.” Even at Sundance.
MULTIPLEX PROSPECTS: Not so much. A definite mainstay on cable though where people will stumble upon it and find themselves unable to turn it off.
Okay. So after that, I finally ventured forth out into a heavy snowfall to do my first walk up Main Street. Working my way around L.A. types as they scoot gingerly through the slushy sidewalks like geishas in Ugg boots (and no, we’re not just talking about the women either). But the snow can’t stop the fun. Wait a minute – I mean “the fun.” Small packs of promo girls all dressed in identical perky colored parkas hand out everything from hand sanitizer to stocking caps to something that may or may not get you a free room at a cool-ass hotel in Miami (but certainly will give some more e-mail spam you can count on). Event P.A.s strategize how to get mountains of pizza boxes across the street and into their party. Pretty actress types do the eye contact “Do you recognize me? Please don’t recognize me. I can’t believe you didn’t recognize me!” thing all in a split second. Somewhere on the street a guy says with exasperation, ”Can we just follow the spandex?!” And there is an army of bouncers shipped in from Samoa (apparently they corner the market on that and offensive linemen) guarding various doors to various parties.
One of those parties was my next stop on the map as I hit the Douchebag pre-screening cocktail party. Crowded. But not gross crowded. While there I ran into Marguerite Moreau. I think she is one of those constantly working, but under the radar actors that I’m always happy to see onscreen so I seized the opportunity to ask her a couple of questions:
MCN: How did you become a part of the film?
Marguerite Moreau: They called me a few days before filming and said we remember you from an audition six months ago; do you want to do this thing with us? And I was like, “Sure, what do I have to do?”
MCN: Three early projects of yours: WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER, EASY, and QUEEN OF THE DAMNED are all pretty much variations of the same film, right?
Marguerite Moreau: How are they the same?
MCN: I was kidding. Anyway, Kyle Patrick Alvarez (Director of EASIER WITH PRACTICE) was full of praise for you and said you were a godsend to have on the set. Do you feel a particular responsibility on behalf of the production when you do an indie film like that or Douchebag?
Marguerite Moreau: I think with smaller films, you actually feel less responsibility because it feels more like a team. I feel a bigger sense of responsibility with bigger films, but that may be my own psychosis.
MCN: And you’ve been doing A LOT of television (MAD MEN, LOST, MONK, BROTHERS & SISTERS to name a few), so do you just approach them all the same – a role is a role, a job is a job?:
Marguerite Moreau: Yes, absolutely. A role is a role, a story is a story. What story will we tell this week, what are my opportunities?
MCN: We’ll finish with the required question. Were there any “douchbags” in your past that you were able to reference for this role – boyfriends or otherwise?
Marguerite Moreau: No comment.
Next stop on the map was the Eccles Theater to see the premiere of John Wells’ The Company Men. After the fun film festival “Where’s Waldo?” game to find the publicists with my ticket – easy, came the sequel, “Where do we get to sit, because we’re special AND we know the theater manager?” – great, and finally, “What the hell?! Tommy Lee Jones actually showed up AND decided to sit right behind us?!” moments – and let’s face it, that stuff is fun sport. Anyway, the review…
THE COMPANY MEN
A film about the effects of corporate downsizing on the men and women being downsized, John Wells does almost everything right. Almost. The Company Men stars Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, and Tommy Lee Jones as the men at three very heady levels of corporate success suddenly body slammed back down to recession earth.
Affleck’s character is the first to be let go and goes through the traditional stages of facing death (Denial, Anger, Acceptance, etc.) as he joins the sea of humanity discarded by their companies. Cooper’s character, despite hanging by his fingernails, is next. He wrestles with the shame and loss of the situation, exasperated by ageism. Jones’ character is the highest up in the food chain, the one fighting to preserve the lives of those around him, let alone trying to retain a shred of dignity during a near-hopeless time. And even he is placed on the chopping block.
Wells’ ace in the hole with all of this is an absolute sincerity in his approach to the subject matter. This isn’t about inconvenience, it is about real suffering. On many, many levels. And it IS harsh. Putting your “best face on” for job interview after job interview, having details of your work history casually dismissed, time marching on with severance pay and savings rapidly disappearing. It’s all there.
Wells knows that in the real world things don’t get fixed quickly because someone comes up with a genius out-of-the-box idea and then one snappy montage later, everyone is back on easy street. Nope. In the real world, the genius out-of-the-box solution is made for you when you’re forced to sell the house and move in with your parents.
But I did say he almost gets everything right. Because even Wells can’t entirely escape the “sometimes poor people are actually better off” thinking. Apparently being poor can be better because poor people build things with their hands, and play with their kids and best yet, actually have sex with their wives.
And yes, this is the kind of movie that is colored greatly by your own personal experiences. I have never had the level of wealth these “company men” enjoy, so the film had a chore ahead of itself to convince me to give a rat’s ass about their predicament. But I think Wells is smart enough not to expect outright sympathy for these guys, but rather understanding. Regardless of what heights you had attained and gained, when the unemployment rug is pulled out from under you, everyone is equal. Or, as someone tells Affleck’s character, “You are just another asshole with a resume’.”
SUNDANCE FEVER: Let’s face it, if you are at Sundance then you likely were able to afford coming to Sundance. So losing those “privileges” should speak to a lot of people here. I bet a lot of folks will reflect deeply on it as they hang out at their condo parties.
MULTIPLEX PROSPECTS: Has to. Despite being somewhat of a marketing challenge (Up In The Airwithout the romantic sheen?) there are too many movie stars in a top-of-the-line production to deny it. But when? End of the year kind of thing…?
At the Q&A afterwards, Cooper emotionally explained his own personal connection with the storyline having seen the parallels with the struggle his own brother has experienced due to the recession. But it was Jones, who begrudgingly took the microphone then spoke of the “vanity of materialism” and the “drama about losing things”. So, as life imitates art, Tommy Lee Jones cut to the chase for the benefit of a movie-watching crowd.
John Wildman is the former Head of Press and Public Relations for the American Film Institute. He is noted for innovating film festival public relations through his work as the Director of PR for film festivals such as AFI FEST, the Dallas International Film Festival, the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, and the Feel Good Film Festival (Los Angeles).