Views & Reviews From Writer Steve Miller
Formerly Reviews and Stuff at Rotten Tomatoes, 2005 - 2009.

Currently Showing at Cinema Steve

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Big-time dreams in small-time theater

Waiting for Guffman (1997)
Starring: Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy, Fred Willard, Parker Posey, Catherine O'Hara, Lewis Arquette, Bob Balaban, Don Lake, Larry Miller, Paul Benedict, Michael Hitchcock, and Matt Keeslar
Director: Christopher Guest
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

A documentary crew follows the casting, staging, and performance of a musical created by Corky St. Clair (Guest), an actor who has failed his way from Broadway to small mid-western town, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the town's founding. When he learns that a New York theatrical producer, Guffman, will be attending the performance, he inspires dreams of major stardom in the small-town amateur actors (Arquette, Keelar, Levy, O'Hara, and Posey) who are performing the play.

"Waiting for Guffman" is a hilarious mockumentary that pokes fun at community theater, smalltown life, and the desire that lurks withine every performer or creative person--no matter how meager their level of talent--to be a star.

From beginning to end, "Waiting for Guffman" is packed with quirky characters and well-done jokes. In some scenes, the jokes are coming so fast, or simulataniously, that you have to watch the film twice to get all of them. (My personal favorite part of the movie is not so much a gag as commentaries that arise from the film... the orchestra plaing the musical's score is almost at a professional level, as opposed to the actor's who are plainly under-rehersed on opening night. The orchestra was being led by a man who kept wanting to have more organization and less touchy-feely, free-form theatre workshop activities during rehersal time.)

The actors are great and very believable in their parts. Christopher Guest, as the effeminite director/playwright, and Parker Posey, as a teenaged fast foodworker, are particularly remarkable and convincing (which is saying something in the case of Guest's character, because it is truly an odd one0, but Fred Willard and Eugene Levy deliver the lines that get the biggest laughs.

An astonishing to me is that this film (like Guest's other films "Best in Show" and "A Mighty Wind") are mostly improv'ed. The backstory (and in this case the history of Blaine gives rise to much of the film's humor), general plot, and general nature of the characters is worked out, but most of the scenes themselves are unscripted. In "Waiting for Guffman," the only scripted things onscreen is the musical "Red, White, and Blaine", everything else in it was improv'ed and much it was done in just one take.

It's very cool, very remarkable, and very well-performed stuff.

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