HBO // 2002 // 85 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Rogers (Retired) // July 30th, 2011
"How do you relate to your father?"
Adrian Grenier (Entourage) is attempting to figure out what a being a father means in this modern era. He's also trying to reconnect with the father who abandoned him so long ago. As the themes and perspectives on fatherhood begin to pile up, and Grenier awkwardly rekindles this lost connection, he begins to see himself as a man -- a better and stronger man -- because of the perceived failures of his father and the strength and wisdom of his mother.
Shot in the Dark should be about Adrian Grenier trying to define what a father is, what he should be to a son, and how the modern father figure has failed the media generation. Should a father be powerful and stable; a best friend or a mentor? Does a father shape a boy into the man he's to become or does he make the kid a pale imitation of himself, filled with the same pitfalls and neurosis? Is a father meant to be feared or respected...or are they the same thing? And Grenier attempts to start his film by asking these questions. He shoves himself into the frame to try and force these answers out of people on the street. It would be compelling if it weren't so amateurishly conceived. It gets annoying to hear Grenier squawking at every turn "what's a father?" and mugging for the camera. These questions and answers start to slip from his reach and float away. The film then grinds to a halt so we can focus on Grenier's own life and his own father situation. It never quite comes back around to the profound themes it hints at in the beginning. What this film ultimately comes down to is the question of whether you really give a shit about Adrian Grenier and his father issues.
He comes off like he always comes off to me, a perpetually stoned looking pretty boy whose vacant gaze is only rivaled by his ambivalently monotone speech pattern. He tries to make points about how it feels to have not grown up with a father, what it's done to him, how it's shaped him and how it's changed his perception of the world. And yet it feels forced. It feels like he's trying so hard to convey emotion or to formulate these profoundly amazing insights into human nature and existence but he just doesn't have the essence needed to pull it off. Does he want sympathy or does he just want people to understand the importance a father plays in a boy's life? He's going for both yet he nails neither convincingly. It's such a shame too. You can tell that he wants to make something profound, and that he wants people to have a window into his own soul and also to question or appreciate their own relationships with their fathers. He just missed the mark.
The more maddening part is how poorly Shot in the Dark was filmed and edited. Grenier's lack of experience behind the camera shows painfully. It's spastic and unfocused, jumping from one thought or subject to the next with no real purpose. The camera never focuses for a second to allow the words of the people he's interviewing to sink in for the viewer. Grenier will thrust the microphone into the face of his subject and into his frame, or he'll pop his head in to say something witty or "enlightened" here and there; reminding us all that this film is about him and his issues with his father more so than the failings of the modern father on the whole. It gives the whole film an amateurish vibe that, in part, erodes the thematic foundation Grenier's trying to build. But it's the cheap music -- which forces itself into every corner of the film to try and heighten the emotion being created -- that makes the film crumble around itself. It's phony and manipulative.
The video on this DVD is about what you'd expect from a documentary filmed way back in 2001 with low quality DV cameras. It's choppy and grainy, washed out and unfocused. But no one really expects anything more or less. The Dolby Digital 2.0 audiotrack is your standard documentary fair also. The dialogue is mostly all audible, so that's good. All the issues with the image and sound are firmly on the production side of things, the DVD just faithfully reproduces Grenier's lack of directing knowledge. The disc does contain a wide host of special features though. There's a commentary track with Grenier, his father, and Jim Mol. Plus a featurette that goes behind the scenes of the (You Drive Me) Crazy music video...it's just Adrian interviewing more people about what a father is supposed to be. And to round it out are two featurettes that update the current standing relationship between Adrian and his dad.
Shot in the Dark is a documentary that could have been so much more if given a better focus and put in the hands of someone who didn't think so much of themselves. Guilty.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Not Rated