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When I first heard the bootleg tape of "Shut Up Little Man" way back in the mid-90's, I thought to myself, "Man, that would make a great play". Well, it very well may have made a great play, but the movie that I just saw (the premiere at SF's Roxie Theater)left me saying to myself, "Man, I wonder if that could still be a great play?".
I'm not sure if this film failed to deliver for me because of the grainy digital to film transfer or because seeing the virtual version of 'Raymond & Peter' come to life does not match up to the image that's been sitting in my head for so many years.
The film does capture very well the claustrophobic conversations and the sometimes physically violent and relentlessly vitriolic rants(mainly from Peter), but the film has a tendency to short circuit. I think the main reason the film doesn't quite click is from the only sporadically inspired performance from Gill Gayle as Raymond. Gayle comes off mostly like a cross between Bill Murray as Carl from Caddyschack and Doug Kenney as Stork from Animal House. Gayle also played up to the laughs, instead of playing his part straight. It seemed he was in search of laughs with a lot of his grumbling responses to Peter's attacks. Just play it straight, let the audience decide if it's funny or sad or both. He also falls short because in what is mainly a two man play, Gayle is up against Glenn Shadix as Peter.
Glenn Shadix's portrayal of Peter turns out to be the heartbeat of the film. And it's not just because he has more lines than Raymond. Shadix gives the film the emotional depth it needed. He gave his character room to exist in a world that consists of a dingy apartment, a recliner and a couch, bottles of alcohol and repetitious conversation. The man is a powerhouse and is quite easily the best part of this film.
Every time I see an orange drink in a tall glass with ice, I may have the strong urge to call 911, or at least talk about it for ten minutes.
Those not familiar with the old 'Raymond & Peter' tapes may be bored and angry while watching this film. Even those who were fans of the tapes may find this to be a trying experience. The crowd on opening night gave the film a very polite hand. After the film was over there was the obligatory Q&A with the Director Bob Taicher and both Gayle and Shadix. One of the questions afterward came in the form of a request. Gayle and Shadix were asked if they could do a live scene from the movie. Both actors were game enough and proceeded to ad-lib through a few minutes of dialog. It was by far the best part of the experience for me, and as was evident by the loud applause for their efforts, the rest of the audience agreed.
I guess my original thought was eventually answered, "This would make for a great play".
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