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Winner of the Audience Award at the Slamdance Film Festival, this realistic comedy tells the story of Henry Phillips, a hapless modern day troubadour who grinds his way through the heartland, living out of his car and singing his twisted satirical songs to anyone who will listen. After a booking mishap involving a Christian fund raiser, he decides he's hit rock bottom. Seeking to shake things up, he moves to L.A. where his luck changes overnight. Thanks less to his inept manager than to a wild case of mistaken identity, he falls backwards into a string of packed gigs, a record deal and even the promise of love. But he who lives by the whimsy of show business dies by it, and reality hits him like a fist in the face: an innocent miscommunication over a bagel brands him a neo-Nazi in the world of tabloid journalism. Luckily, somewhere between rock bottom and nowhere lies the perfect terrain for his dark and hilarious songs.
Solidly made film about the trials and humiliations of a likable comedic troubadour's misadventures in L.A. benefits strongly from an immensely likable lead (playing himself which is of course not nearly as easy as a person would think it to be) and likable oddball supporting characters that help give the film a strong sense of place as well. Both of the actors who play the talent agent and Phillips's brother are very well used, and very well written as well.
The film isn't perfect. The recurring plot line/joke of people in L.A. believing Phillips to be a neo nazi because of various misunderstandings and gossip spreading is spread awfully thin the longer it goes on (and i'm not sure how funny an idea it was to begin with quite honestly) and there are some jokes here and there that don't really land the way they should, (although there are plenty that do of course) Phillips himself gives such a strong sense of self--or more likely such a strong sense of insecurities facing a performer who can't seem to catch a break anywhere despite being really good on-stage...that none of the film's flaws really matter in the end--because they're mostly easy to overlook.
The only two things about the movie is that i didn't find it so flat out hilarious so much as generally enjoyable. The movie didn't have me in stitches even though some of the songs Phillips performs are very well done and very funny when you stop and think about it---(and catchy too actually now that i think about it...maybe its just me then) but the movie works more as a drama then anything else anyways. In that sense the narrative works wonderfully throughout---will the talent agent manage to help book him a solid gig? will the record label actually sign him? well anything even remotely positive happen to him in a way that he can enjoy it? these questions are actually very elegantly posed and the search for those answers generate a lot more suspense then you'd think they would. Its a well oiled screenplay which brings me to the other flaw--which is the ending. Film doesn't seem to have a third act beyond Phillips gets humiliated without ever really getting to right the record. I know the work--Phillip's work itself is what sets the record straight once and for all--that it gets played and people get to hear and get to see it in a film version is the real triumph--but its kind of a delayed gratification that you don't get to see Phillips get to really go after the guy (or guys) who sort of set him up for a fall. Its ultimately all right though because again the film's likability helps you overlook that in general.
That this film took a good decade (more or less) to create makes it even more of an achievement (the director who was a college friend of Phillios i believe raised the funds for production himself, and i know for a fact is distributing the movie himself from town to town as well--i know cause i saw him answering questions after the film at a regular screening of it as well--he literally just happened to be in the lobby because he is personally distributing the thing apparently.) In that sense its a true independent film and just the fact that it made it to a screen at all (especially in today's distribution climate) is miraculous all on its own.
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