13 November 2007

uber-indie: Never Say Macbeth


starring: Joe Tyler Gold, Ilana Kira, Gregory G. Giles, Tammy Caplan, Tania Getty, and Scott Conte
cinematography by: Michael Millikan
written by: Joe Tyler Gold
directed by: C.J. Prouty
86 min/Los Angeles, CA

I'm pretty active in Pittsburgh's theatre community. Occasionally I'll be in a play, or just help out behind the scenes, and every summer I contribute in some way to the Pittsburgh New Works Festival. What, might you ask, does that have to do with the uber-indie project? Nothing, except that today we're reviewing C.J. Prouty's Never Say Macbeth, a comedy about a theatre group's production of William Shakespeare's cursed[1] play.

The story is simple enough: Danny (Joe Tyler Gold), a science teacher from Ohio, follows his actress girlfriend (Ilana Kira) to Los Angeles in an attempt to win her back. Of course, he accidentally ends up getting cast in the paroduction of the Scottish play, triggers the curse, and comedy ensues. At least until the ghosts of past productions show up.

Along the way we hit all the greatest hits of the uber-indie broad comedy: the forced Star Wars reference, the slapstick moments, the one-note supporting characters, the Kevin Smith influences, and the fish out of water motif. Add a formulaic romantic comedy storyline and some green screen effects, and there's your movie.

An aside: what exactly is the obsession with the Star Wars jokes and references? I understand the films were influential and hugely popular during the formative years of a lot of aspiring filmmakers, but enough already. It was wearing thin five years ago. Move on. I'm starting to think it serves more as a hindrance than a help, as everyone seems reliant on it as a convenient source of humor, rather than taking the time to fill that space on screen with something original.

One of the difficulties of watching Never Say Macbeth critically is figuring out where the line exists between the inept and the jokes at the expensive of the inept. Take, for example, the play's director. He's over-the-top and full of himself, to be sure, and sports a ridiculous, clearly fake gotee. As I see it, there's two explainations for this: either the fake gotee is a joke or it's just a terrible makeup job. If it's a joke, I see no reasoning behind it. But, considering that the character's second scene takes place with him standing in front of an old poster where he sports a shorter, real one, I think we're supposed to think the facial hair is real.

The cast, while generally bad (one gets the idea that some of the actors are giving stage performances on film...or is that part of the joke?), has some impressive moments, such as the ones involving theatre ghosts possessing the cast, but they're too few. It's a problem that exists film-wide. Never Say Macbeth is by no means a good film, as currently constructed, but there's enough good parts, enough inspired moments, to make me think a good film is possible, given the right circumstances. Worth noting is some spiffy special effects, considering the budget, and Michael Millikan's cinematography, which effectively mixes stage and film lights to add cinematic credibility to the end product.

Tim Labor's score, on the other hand, is the film's Achilles' heel. It is forced and omnipresent and cloying. The score is annoying in a vacuum, but to make things worse, it is too loud. The purpose of a film score is to enhance the proceedings on film, not to distract from them. Here, the music overpowers the dialogue, the actors, the images, everything. Moments that might work on their own fail simply because the score is dictating how we should feel about them. As you might imagine, that gets annoying quickly.

[1] According to Wikipedia: "said to be because Shakespeare used the spells of real witches in his text, so witches got angry and are said to have cursed the play...A large mythology has built up surrounding this superstition, with countless stories of accidents, misfortunes and even deaths, all mysteriously taking place during runs of Macbeth (or by actors who had uttered the name)." So there you go.

Check out Never Say Macbeth for yourself at the Official Webpage, where you can watch the trailer and see how the cast and crew suffered from the curse. Or, check them out on IMDB and MySpace.

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buck-o said...

dude, you're completely missing the facial hair joke. fake facial hair is innately funny. it falls in the same category as the glasses w/ the fake nose and mustache, big hats and milk coming out of one's nose.