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The Independent

Starring Jerry Stiller, Janeane Garofalo, Max Perlich
Screenplay by Stephen Kessler and Mike Wilkins
Directed by Stephen Kessler

IN SHORT: Some great jokes poorly executed. [Rated R for language, some violence and sexuality. 85 minutes]

We knew there was a reason we got into this line of work. Every day, this time of year sometimes two or three times a day, we sit in the dark. Our quest? To find that one film whose story is succinct and clear. Whose humor is double edged and gut buster funny. Whose technical merits -- sound and cinematography and so forth -- are superlative. Again and again we watch and we wait and we hope against hope . . . and then comes a film like The Independent...

...which ain't what we wuz waitin' for. Directed and co-written by Stephen Kessler, The Independent is a comedy about the most prolific indie filmmaker of all time. Occasionally it drops a funny line in your lap. Unfortunately, the sloppy filmmaking is made us too tired to laugh. It may be deliberate that this film looks exactly like what every impoverished first effort out of film school projects tend to look like, which is crap. The Independent is filled with occasionally out of focus and hand held shots and jarring jump cuts for that "art" factor. If so, The Independent is way too high concept for us. Even Troma, God bless 'em, manages to keep their cameras steady. While the titles of the "films" and the "clips" from some of these films are funny in and of themselves, the individual parts don't add up to the conceptual whole.

It would almost be worth the ticket price to see the pained expression on star Janeane Garofalo's face as she suffers through this truly incredible bomb. True, she usually wears a pained expression, but this one is to die for. Garofalo plays Paloma Fineman, daughter of the aforesaid said prolific filmmaker -- 427 and counting -- Morty Fineman (Jerry Stiller). As the film begins, Morty is trying to finish his latest epic "Miss Kevorkian" (real terminally ill patients and an Uzi-packing Julie Strain). The maker of such epics as World War III II and Psycho Vet pts 1 - 3 and Christ for the Defense) is trying to drum up money and hoping to land the rights to the life story of the most prolific serial killer of all time. He's got "his people" (which would be the solo Max Perlich) out trying to drum up support, and screenings, at any film festival possible. We learn that Fineman was, at one time, incredibly successful who lost it all on a $30 millions bomb called The Whole Story of America (his wife, appropriately played by Stiller's real life wife Anne Meara, got the Rolls and the one great visual gag in the movie).

We do give credit to Kessler for packing his film with "testimonials" from real life directors (Ron Howard, Peter Bogdanovich, Nick Cassavetes, Roger Corman) and actors (Karen Black, Fred Williamson, Fred Dryer) to Fineman's prowess and abilities and general niceness -- proving that these folks are smart enough to know that you better be good to the lousy, hard workers 'cuz one day they may be working for incredibly successful, lousy, hardworkers (we're going with the concept of the film, that Fineman is real. Really). Kessler's best casting decision is John Lydon as a film festival director in lovely Chaparral, Nevada, who scoffs at Fineman's oeuvre. If you know Lydon's music career, and what people said or didn't say, you'll get the joke. While the concept may be great, what's sorely lacking is the exuberant use of sex and blood that make up these cheapies.

As well, X-Men fanboys should note the presence of Chaparral mayor "Kitty Storm" (Ginger Lynn Allen) to the mix. If you get the joke, as with Lydon, you get it. If we repeated some of the jokes in the film to you, even out of context they'd be funny. Hell, our notes are making us laugh. That doesn't explain why sitting through The Independent is like sitting through a dinner where someone at the table insists on telling one joke after another, all of 'em bad ones, getting more insistent that they're funny as bomb after bomb comes crashing down. But it was.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Nine Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Independent, he would have paid . . .


Rent as cheaply as possible. (And if anyone knows the whereabouts of former compatriot and contributor Trent Haaga, steer him to a theater. He loves this stuff to death.)

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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.