A verité-satire, The Festival is an ensemble comedy, told from the perspective of fictional IFC documentarian, Cookie. Cookie's subject: Rufus Marquez, a quixotic young director embarking ...
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A verité-satire, The Festival is an ensemble comedy, told from the perspective of fictional IFC documentarian, Cookie. Cookie's subject: Rufus Marquez, a quixotic young director embarking on his virgin voyage to the prestigious Mountain United Film Festival (MUFF.) The Film is The Unreasonable Truth of Butterflies. The goal is a distribution deal. And the pressure is on. Rufus - unprepared for the excess of schmoozing activities - maneuvers an assortment of pretentious filmmakers, salivating distributors and smile-for-the-camera festival VIPs. The problem is, no one has seen his film - and the more no one sees it, the hotter the buzz becomes. As her bosses close in, Cookie loses her objectivity and Rufus loses his film - literally - as his masterpiece goes missing. Written by
Cameras for the Independent Film Channel roll as Rufus Marquez (Nicolas Wright) takes his first little film, "The Unreasonable Truth of Butterflies", toward what he hopes is his big break at the Mountain United Film Festival. From the outset nothing goes right and Rufus struggles against phony Hollywood producers, hapless festival executives and a successful actor friend at every turn to get his film shown.
A Canadian verite-style mockumentary on IFC satirizing the independent film festival scene, Phil Price's "The Festival" has all the look and sound of the next great pretentious cult series. Price's take on film festivals is that while they are supposedly a forum for artistic expression hey are actually teaming with the same sleazy producers and corporate sponsorships of mainstream Hollywood cinema. But right off the bat it pronounces itself loudly as a series with a pension for misery and a soft-peddled, been-there-done-that satire.
Priority 1 for this show is to make the life of it's main character, Rufus, a living hell. The story is relentless in it's desire to punish Rufus with one humiliation after another. "Festival's" continuing downward spiral is a scriptwriting 101 set up a redemption that never comes. How this furthers the satire is only known in Price's mind. Fortunately for him, Wright is up to the task, throwing himself entirely into every one of Rufus' obscenity-laced meltdowns. Wright's performance is the highlight of the show, but that doesn't mean it's funny.
"Festival" is more frustrating, than entertaining. And I'm far from opposed to humiliation-themed comedy or shows without happy endings. Similar mockumentaries like HBO's underrated "The Comeback" and BBC's legendary "The Office" traded in main characters that suffer a series of humiliations. However they deserved it in one way or another or were given a victory (all be it a small one) now and then. What is Rufus' fatal flaw? Being passionate about film? Being a pretentious self-indulgent film maker with stars in his eyes?
But "Festival" is also a large scale ensemble, featuring Sarah Carlsen as Rufus' feminist lesbian roommate (and director of "My Vagina Scares You"), Miranda Handford as the documentary's producer who takes a shine to Rufus, James A.Woods as Lance Rawley a Hollywood star loved by all and Rob DLeeuw as Vic Morgenstein sleazy producer who Price smartly picks to headline his sequel series "The Business". The ensemble is just spread too thin and the show doesn't delve into these characters fully. Great ensembles have distinct characters that bounce off of each other, "Festival" just has a bunch of people in it.
"Festival" takes aim at a satirical target that has been beaten to death several times before heartless, chew-you-up Hollywood and still manages to miss the mark. It flies all over the place setting up bits that it doesn't pay off: a tobacco sponsorship, the warring producers, the increasing incompetence of the festival organizers, the true story behind "Butterflies". The show gets lost in a fog trying to figure out what it wants to say and then just as quickly takes a hard left turn into desperate scatological college-humor where Vic is showing us the aftermath of his circumcision and the frequent use of the acronym MUFF for comic effect.
"The Festival" isn't a bad show, it just reeks of familiarity in the shadow of similar shows (rent the spectacular "The Comeback" instead). There are a lot of amateur mistakes that come together like a cocktail and keep it from working. Price gets it together and finds a sense of humor in humiliation with his funny, sequel series, "The Business". But that's another review...
* * / 4
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