SIFF Double Feature – The Fabulous Allan Carr and Entanglement
The Fabulous Allan Carr: I came to this documentary not knowing anything about it’s subject, but since director Jeffrey Schwarz made one of my favorite movies of all time, I am Divine, it was pretty much a given I was going to watch it. Schwarz tells the tale of Allan Carr: theater producer, manager, PR genius, party giver extraordinaire, film producer, and the person responsible for the 61st Annual Academy Awards debacle. An article from People magazine in 1979 had this to say about him, “Anywhere else but Hollywood he would be dismissed as too bizarre, and even in Hollywood he looks as if he just wandered off the set of a Federico Fellini film: an elephantine man of 42, who conceals his bulk in gaudy caftans and kimonos, gets his hair waved into chestnut ringlets at Sassoon’s and makes and breaks friendships with the speed of light.” Aside from the sheer bitchiness of that comment, it mostly seems to miss the point about a man who is shown in this film to be loyal and generous, and whose main reason for being in the entertainment industry was to make people happy. He produced the film version of Grease, brought La Cage aux Folles to America, and – while the film doesn’t mention it – produced Cloak & Dagger starring Dabney Coleman. All of which adds to a pretty decent legacy.
This film is a delight to watch. Carr was a complicated person, and Schwartz does not shy away from showing it. Fabulous during a time when being publically gay was still taboo, it’s refreshing to see Carr just being himself on talk shows and seemingly unconcerned about public perception. But the film isn’t about being gay, it’s about a man who created the biggest life for himself he possibly could, but who let his failures impact him more than they probably should have. I don’t want to talk about the events of his life too much because I found a lot of pleasure in learning about him, and I don’t want to ruin that for anyone. The only criticism I have is the end felt rushed. There’s kind of a little mystery presented regarding his death, and I wish that had been fleshed out a little. Who was taking care of him and why were they keeping him from everybody? Inquiring minds want to know! Anyway, this is a lot of fun, and I encourage anyone who enjoys a good story to see it.
The Fabulous Allan Carr plays May 19th and 20th at the SIFF Cinema Egyptian.
Final Grade: A
Entanglement: In director Jason James’ second feature, suicidal hipster Ben (Thomas Middleditch) discovers something odd after his father’s heart attack. Before Ben was born, his parents adopted a baby girl, but had to give her up when they found out they were pregnant with him. Ben’s life has not turned out the way he wanted, and this piece of information makes him wonder how different things would have been if he had grown up with a sister. With the help of friend and neighbor Tabby (Diana Bang), he hunts this alternate timeline sister down and spills his story to her. Hanna (Jess Weixler) is a wild child who agrees to hang out and show him what he’s been missing all these years so he can discover what went wrong in his life and fix it. Unfortunately (or fortunately) Hanna brings out a more adventurous side of Ben and the two of them embark on an occasionally criminal friendship. When Tabby gets curious about her friend’s new sibling, Hanna’s motivations come to light, and they may not be as benign as they appear.
This is basically the plot of a 90s psychosexual thriller done as a twee feel-good dramedy. And for many people that is going to seem like fun. If it does, you should go see it, because it will probably be right up your alley. It’s got decent performances, a hopeful message, and plenty of mildly humorous moments. I did not care for it, but rather than that being a failure of filmmaking, I think it was because it was just not my movie. I wanted to see the sleazy horror movie buried deep inside this one. I am not much of one for twee, and I felt its handling of mental illness was of the glossy, made-for-tv, not-even-a-little-bit-based-in reality school. And if I’m going to watch that kind of stuff, I’d prefer it be stabby rather than emo. Thomas Middleditch keeps getting cast as a variation on a theme, but he’s always enjoyable to watch. I do wish he would get to be the innocent about to be duped by Sharon Stone before she tries to kill him, but, once again, this is not that movie.
Entanglement plays at the Majestic Bay on May 19th, SIFF Cinema Uptown on May 20th, and Lincoln Square on May 24th.
Final Grade: B-