Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Man in the Chair

“Will you be willing to pay the price to be the man in the chair?”

Cameron Kincaid (Michael Angarano) is a troubled kid, in trouble at school, with the law, and at odds with his overbearing step-father (Mitch Pileggi); his only escape is through film.

One day after school he meets Flash Madden (Christopher Plummer), a drunken loudmouth who seems to know more about films than anyone Cameron has met. Flash worked for years as a gaffer in the movie biz and was given his nickname from Orson Wells (Jodi Ashworth) on the set of Citizen Kane. Cameron strikes up an uneasy friendship with Flash and convinces him to help make a student film. Flash persuades his friends at the nursing home, all of whom worked in the movie business, to help and Cameron finds himself with the most experienced crew any student has used to shoot his first film.

There are many things which work in the film. First off the performances are good across the board especially those of the leads, Plummer and Angarano. Although Plummer’s performance smells a little of Oscar Bait there’s enough to enjoy.

The film also has some issues, aside the the believability and coincidence of all these events happening at the same time just when they can help fix everyone’s lives. The entire subplot of the mean kid (Taber Schroeder, who comes off as a second rate William Zabka) is a complete waste of time. As is the confusing subplot of Flash’s hatred for the local dog pound. Neither of these threads lead anywhere, nor are they all that well told or at all interesting. The story of the family relationship with Cameron, his step-father and mother (Mimi Kennedy) is well set-up but isn’t given the same time and care as the rest of the film, and leads to a hastily forced conclusion that I had trouble buying.

Also troubling are director Michael Schroeder‘s forced attempts at odd camera effects which I got tired of very quickly. These jumbled images might mean to add an extra layer to the film (like a poor man’s Tony Scott), but they simply don’t work. Sadly these shots only come off as distracting at best, and, more often than not, both intrusive and annoying.

Man in the Chair has its problems. It’s predictable, it’s a little naive, it’s poorly explored subplots and simplistic periphery characters keep getting in the way of the main story, and the director thinks he Federico Fellini. Even with these problems there’s still much here to enjoy including some good performances and a love of cinema. I’m still giving this film a moderate recommendation despite its issues. It’s not a must see by any stretch of the imagination, but if you can overlook its many faults there’s a good film in there trying to get out.

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