Being Michael Madsen Is A Chore

Festival audiences are generally more generous than traditional theatrical crowds. It's a double-edged sword. Some films that will never see the light of day, or the darkness of theatrical release, find audiences who are willing to set aside their critical opinions and just enjoy a film for mere competence of craft, a lone performance or the nimble work of an up-and-coming cinematographer. We're willing to dole out A's for effort.

After seeing Being Michael Madsen on Saturday, I was guilty of thinking a mediocre movie had merit. I found myself muttering to a friend shortly thereafter, “I think it was a pretty effective recitation on fame and privacy and ...” I trailed off, unable to sustain an argument for which I knew I was about to be asked to provide evidence when there was none.

Being Michael Madsen is a mockumentary in which Michael Madsen plays not himself, but a fictionalized version of himself. He has a run in with a paparazzo, exacts revenge by hiring a documentary crew to out-paparazzi the tabloid photographer, and what the audience ends up watching is supposed to be a documentary about that fictional documentary.

And for this effort I'm only willing to dole out meta-points for what-could-have-beens and a litany of decent ideas poorly executed that I won't get into here. In-studio-interview-heavy and overacted in a way that Christopher Guest would probably cringe at, Being Michael Madsen was a chore to watch.

Sure, a few stellar seconds here and there from Virginia Madsen and Harry Dean Stanton (both personal favorites, both playing themselves, sort of) brought a smile to my face, but I just don't see this film playing well to anyone who lives outside the cat-and-mouse game the film attempts to mock. If it does get theatrical release, it will only be because a distribution exec has the money to invest in his own myopia. Which probably means it will hit multiplexes this spring. -- Sean Cronin

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Sean Cronin