Man of the Year
directed by Straw Weisman
& Tamara Friedman
(Media Financial, 2002)

Back in 1977, a guy named Straw Weisman wrote a movie called Pelvis. Cameras followed a group of young people around as they threw a party, got naked and danced to music all night long.

No, I've never seen this mid-'70s "classic," but Weisman doesn't seem to have gotten the basic premise out of his system. In 2002, he used only basic plot outlines (more on that later) to film Man of the Year, in which a couple of dirty business execs and their insufferable friends and associates gather together to celebrate the business success of one of the group.

Most people keep their clothes on this time. Most of the time.

But the idea of a party being entertaining in and of itself, that it provides the outlet for all sorts of unexpected stuff to happen, still seems to jazz up Weisman. Add in the late, great John Ritter as the business exec who has even more up his sleeve and swept under the rug than he does in his humongous bank account, and it seems Weisman may have something to hang his hopes on.

There's a nifty little trick, too, in the way it's filmed: Nearly two dozen cameras have been set up throughout a Hollywood Hills mansion, all filming simultaneously to catch any action that more than a dozen actors improvise, based on a plot and character outline they've been given.

But what comes out is too often a confusing mush of shallow people manipulating, lying, cheating, stealing and breaking just about every other rule of decency and common sense.

It's not their behavior in and of itself that's necessarily the problem. There are plenty of loathsome characters in the film who are completely compelling. But it seems apt that Gertrude Stein once said of Los Angeles, location of this film: "There's no 'there' there."

There just doesn't seem to be any "there" to these characters, either, which makes it tough to care whether they cheat their business partner or their drug dealer, or to care what happens to them when they do. And you know they will.

Some critics have praised Man of the Year for ingenuity, but, at least for me, it all seemed more like a parlor trick.

The host is carrying one camera. That's the one all the guests know about. But as for the other cameras? We know the pair caught in the elevator see a security camera and we have to assume they know they're being filmed. And everyone else? Are they acting like they normally would when no one is looking? They all seem to be so hyped-up and camera-ready.

Problem is, I just didn't feel like they were worth watching for very long.

by Jen Kopf
24 December 2005

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