Craig Gilbert, portrayed here by Gandolfini, James, was the award-winning documentary filmmaker who created and produced the original "American Family" series on PBS. After the controversy about the iconic series, it proved to be his final film credit. See more »
The Louds' Mercedes has a California plate with the number style 1AAA000. These plates did not appear until 1980. See more »
seamless interweaving of drama, docudrama & documentary
"Cinema Verite" may be a new art form: a drama shot in semi-documentary style about a documentary series (shot in 1971, televised nationally in 1973) which itself hovered between the spontaneous and the rehearsed. This 90-minute effort takes about a third of its running time time to get off the ground, but when it does it becomes fascinating as both sociology and drama.
At first it seems as if there is no point in re-enacting the back story to the famous series that followed the ups and downs of the upper-middle-class Loud family of Santa Barbara. Nothing particularly interesting happens as a producer (James Gandolfini) talks a married couple (Diane Lane and Tim Robbins) into allowing cameras into their lives for an unprecedentedly close look at the perfect American family. The real drama begins only when the participants are forced to grapple with the big choices (what and what not to film, what and what not to do when the camera is rolling, how to handle the fact that their lives have decisively changed once the cameras entered). The actors here give themselves totally to this multi-leveled process and come out with flying colors.
We see the actual Loud family in snippets from the original series juxtaposed with their contemporary impersonators who seamlessly fill their shoes, sometimes in mid- conversation. The casting is very good; the resemblances are striking. (But as close a match as Diane Lane is to Pat Loud, Demi Moore would have been even closer.) Some clever member of the creative team even decided to frame the whole enterprise with Mama Cass's 1969 song hit "Dream a Little Dream of Me" (originally a hit in 1931, about 40 years before "An American Family"'s time), allowing the song to surface again, 40 more years down the road, as underscoring to an examination of "the first reality show." A neat touch.
One thing they got wrong was the performance of the underground play "Vain Victory" which the mother attends in the company of her gay son, Lance. The performers and venue for such ragtag productions were a lot funkier than depicted in this otherwise spot-on production. Of course, by 2011 cultural standards such drag acts are as tame and commonplace as Twinkies, but they were enough to drive Pat Loud out of the room back in '71.
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