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‘My Life’s in Turnaround’ (NR)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
July 22, 1994

"My Life's in Turnaround," an amiable spoof of independent filmmaking, is the inevitable outgrowth of "America's Funniest Home Videos": a home movie pretending to be a major motion picture. Produced, directed and written by Eric Schaeffer and Donal Lardner Ward, it tells the semi-autobiographical story of a pair of Generation X-outs who decide to make a movie about themselves. It's not because they're egotistical, it's just that they haven't any other ideas.

Remember when Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza were working on a TV development deal and all they could come up with was a series about "nothing"? Well, it's in the air and on the air: the ultimate in surreal comic fashion. That's probably why the heroes, Splick (Schaeffer) and Jason (Ward), seem more like spinoffs from "Saturday Night Live" than they do complex characters caught in the act of developing.

Splick and Jason are basically clueless citizens of "Wayne's World," comically detached from reality and thus undeterred by its demands. A cabbie and a bartender who create pretentious theater pieces that collect pans, the dudes come up with making a movie as the solution to their problems. They don't know from film school, they haven't got a script, and no stars are attached. They do know they must take meetings.

With the reluctant help of an agent friend, they meet with a producer (Casey Siemaszko) who talks them into adapting a 200-pound Polish manuscript on spec. "{But} we neither read nor speak Polish," Splick explains. "Don't worry about the text, it's the characters," the producer says.

"The Player" it isn't, but there are faint echoes of that movie biz parody here, probably because Schaeffer and Ward filmed the scenes just as they happened in real life. The filmmakers estimate that 99 percent of what you see actually happened, including a chance encounter with Phoebe Cates and a raunchy conversation with Martha Plimpton, both of whom reenact these scenes in the movie.

The story's structure is a lot like a dog chasing its tail until he finally catches up with it. Suspense has nothing to do with it: The fun is in watching a movie whose very existence is totally preposterous -- maybe even, like, Felliniesque.

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