What About Me?
UK/USA, 2002. Rated PG-13. 132 minutes.
Carter Roy, Bernard Madrid, Lauri Morrison, Shirl Denault, Roberta Orlandi,
|Grade: F||Review by Dominic Varle|
n Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand claims that "an idea unexpressed in physical action is contemptible hypocrisy." Bernard Madrid, the writer, director, editor, producer and star of What About Me? has clearly taken this dictum to heart. He is bursting with ideas. After a career supervising something to do with B1 Bombers, making this film is his dream come true. Good for him. Not so good for us, though. "The vision of one man" according to the press notes, What About Me? is a diabolical vanity project, proving absolutely that a man's grasp should be beyond his reach. Aerospace's loss is definitely not cinema's gain.
What About Me? is "loosely-based on personal experiences" says Madrid. "It's an ironic twist and sometimes tongue-in-cheek approach to how ridiculous we men can get in order to succeed, especially with women." His 'vision' is the result of a "bragging session" with a friend, "recalling the escapades of single life, the great times" they had, and then "remembering the times that weren't so great, the lonely nights, the crazy women." Ah, those crazy women. Even a libertarian like Rand, if she had to sit through this excruciating film, might have exempted Bernard from her aphorism, perhaps recommending he lie down until that auteur feeling went away.
The premise of his film is simple, yet its execution is flawed. How flawed? Unwatchably flawed. Having married young, Ted (Carter Roy, in a creditably game performance) always envied the carefree bachelor lifestyle of his best friend Colin (Madrid). The break up of his marriage gives clean-cut, white-collar Ted the opportunity to realize his fantasythe fantasy of exchanging his wife, child and white picket-fence domesticity for the opportunity to emulate swinging Colin. (That's forty-something Colin the construction site lothario who sports a superbly un-ironic mullet and looks like a roadie for .38 Special.) It's a strange world, but whatever floats your boat, I suppose.
Best friend that he is, Colin sets Ted up in a bachelor pad, encourages sleeping around, and dispenses sage Don Juan-style advice. Stellar stuff, like "Stay away from that homey girl down the hall, she's the marrying kind." Good skills, Bernard (he wrote it you know) and in no way foreshadowing what is to come. But when Colin announces he's off to a construction job in LA for three months, the inept Ted realizes he must fend for himself. Although the domestic and romantic odds are against him, Ted overcomes the former hurdle by stocking the fridge with a six pack. There's a gag in there somewhere, but Madrid (he directed it you know) has no time for gags. No, he's too busy hamfistedly making a point about Just Being Who You Are by showing Ted failing miserably to match Colin's luck with the ladies.
Whatever. The film had completely lost me by this stage. [I think it lost me way before then.Ed.] It's just impossible to empathize with characters as loathsome as these two. Sure, much the same could be said about the protagonists of In the Company of Men. A crucial difference is that Madrid disingenuously coats Ted and Colin with a patina of decency but utterly fails to mask the rich seam of misogyny below, whereas LaBute brazenly inverts this and to hell with our empathy. Madrid's characters crave redemption, irrespective of merit. He would have us believe that there are only nice guys and bad boys, homey girls and "crazy women," and later that each of us is actually all of these things. Conveniently, this makes is possible in the end for a '"nice guy" like Ted (after multiple strikeouts) and a "bad boy" like Colin (after multiple romps) to settle down. The magic of cinema. As an actor and director, the less said about Madrid and the truly disturbing lasciviousness of his male gaze the better. [It's giving me the willies all over again just reading about it.Ed.] While patriarchal spectatorship is far from uncommon in contemporary cinema, he has neither the wit nor skill to conceal his repugnant libido. Is this the "ironic twist" and "tongue-in-cheek approach" he was talking about? At first, it's almost comic, like Sylvester lusting after a plucked, trussed and spit-roasting Tweety Pie, but it becomes too nauseating to watch. I was too busy to watch anyway. I had to find a way to relieve the cramp in my clenched buttocks without causing undue alarm to AboutFilm.com editor Alison. I also had to hatch an escape plan that would avoid having to look the film's PR woman in the eye on the way out. [An accomplishment of stealth that seals your reputation as AboutFilm's in-house James Bond.Ed.]
Maybe all is not lost for Mr. Madrid as a director, though. While most of What About Me? looks like it was helmed by a graduate of the Mexican soap opera school of directing, there is one segment in which he fully realizes his potential as a filmmaker. Should the need arise in the advertising industry for a 1970s-style hairspray commercial, Bernard Madrid is your man. [I was thinking he should give Summer's Eve a call when this thing tanks, but, yeah, that's about right.Ed.] Failing that, on this evidence he is certainly qualified to contribute his visions to the adult film industry, whether as writer, director, editor, producer, or star.
At the time of writing, worldwide rights for What About Me? are still available.
© July 2003 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Image © 2002 Diamond Star Productions. All Rights Reserved.
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