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What do an elderly topiary gardener, a retired lion tamer, a man fascinated by mole rats, and a cutting-edge robotics designer have in common? Both nothing and everything in this unconventional documentary directed by Erroll Morris. Fast, Cheap & Out of Control (Referring to the robot specialist's strange philosophy of robot design structure, not Erroll Morris's documentary techniques!) interplays, overlaps, and interrelates these four separate and highly specialized documentary subjects in order to in truth study all of humanity, raising questions about the future of mankind. Written by
Matthew F. Griffin
Four men are interviewed separately. One man studies hairless mole rats. One man is a topiary gardener. One man is a retired lion tamer. One is a robotics designer. Each has a passion (or an obsession) with their chosen subject but have seemingly little in common. With the collection of their interviews, Errol Morris explores the themes of growth, development and evolution of species.
My plot summary suggests that I "got" what Morris was trying to do but really this is my guess. If that was his intension though then he has fallen short of it because rather than coming together to form a documentary, the film feels like it is all over the place with no real direction or control over the subject matter. Each of the men are reasonably interesting by themselves and the topics are unusual enough to hold the interest. However the way Morris uses them is poor and the film is cluttered with archive movie footage and a terrible musical score. I'm not totally sure how he was trying to get to where he wanted to be, maybe at one point he just decided to revel in the "weirdness" of his subjects and give up on pulling it all together.
The men are mostly interesting even if their subjects aren't particularly. The gardener was probably the only one that I actively found pretty dull, the others had a bit of character and passion that endeared them to me. Maybe if Morris had tried to do more with the men themselves he could have done something interesting, but by going for the bigger theme he loses his way and ultimately his film shows it consistently throughout.
Overall then a disappointing film from start to finish. Die-hard fans of Morris might find enough of his style and interest to carry them through but for me I found it to be a real mess of a documentary that doesn't seem to have any design or structure about and left me wondering what I was watching and why I was bothering.
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