Sunday, August 1, 2010

On-Demand: Rediscovered oldie COLIN FITZ LIVES -- again -- via Sundance Selects

Back in 1997 a little movie made a big splash at Sundance and soon after played other festivals, winning Best Feature Film at the Austin Film Fest along the way.  Big things were expected, but nothing happened. You can find out why at IndieWire, which has a fine article on/interview with the film's director Robert Bella (shown below) regarding the making of the movie and what happened to it subsequently. That film, COLIN FITZ LIVES, finally makes its movie-going-public debut this Wednesday, August 4, On-Demand via Sundance Selects -- even though the "selection" arrives thirteen years after the fact.

So what's the big deal? As a matter of fact, there isn't one.  Colin Fitz Lives is a small, deadpan comedy with some charm, humor, social relevance -- and an independent-style, starry cast -- that maybe does not seem quite as important as its own history. In its day it might have become a cult hit; now it may seem a little old-fashioned. Dealing with celebrity, security and the early demise of a rock-star, it weaves interviews with fans of the dead star into its story of two security guards -- Matt McGrath (below, right) and Andy Fowle (below, left) -- ordered to stand guard at the grave of the star on the night of the anniversary of his death in order to prevent anything bad happening again this year.  (We learn what happened last year as the film moves along.)

Most of the movie takes place in the cemetery where the late Fitz lies buried, as people come and go -- the guard's boss (an under-used William H. Macy, below), a young lady (Martha Plimpton) who provides love interest for McGrath), and the rock star's widow (Julianne Phillips, shown prone, at bottom), among others.  There is one major foray outside the cemetery, as the guard played by Fowle stalks his ex-girl-friend (Mary McCormack) in one of the film's funnier, more pointed scenes.

An ensemble piece, CFL still spends a slight majority of its time on the McGrath character, who -- despite the overlay of tics given him in an expository history than is unveiled slowly throughout -- proves not all that interesting, after all. (And this is not helped by McGrath's overly wide-eyed performance.)  The film's most fascinating character by far is the guard Grady, played by Mr. Fowle (below, being sprayed by an angry McCormack): a would-be macho man with issues about women, gays (and probably blacks), who yet maintains some grains of decency that keep popping out at odd times, try as he does to keep these under wraps. This is one complicated man, and Mr. Fowle brings him to surprising, even charming, life.

The writing here is from Tom Morrissey, who shows a certain facil-
ity for deadpan humor, quirky character and the way conversation has of going off into more interesting tangents than the subject at hand.  Timing may not be, as they say, all, but it certainly has an impact on how a movie appears -- in its own time and later on -- and thirteen years is a long while between filming and release.

Had CFL been distributed in a more timely manner, I suspect it would have been embraced by the independent crowd and been seen and liked well enough to propel the careers of Bella, Morrissey and Fowle -- none of whom has worked as much as he probably ought to have in the interim.  I'm happy to see the movie finally find distribution, but for me, this is the saddest part of the equation. Who knows what might have been?

Colin Fitz Lives is available for now only On-Demand via Sundance Selects. It will have its Los Angeles premiere at the American Cinematheque at the Aero Theater, Thursday, Aug. 5th at 7:30pm.

Photos are from the film itself, except for that of the director, 
provided by Mr. Bella and taken from the IndieWire blog. 

No comments: