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Case Number 18979: Small Claims Court

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The Definition Of Insanity

FilmBuff // 2004 // 81 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Christopher Kulik (Retired) // May 27th, 2010

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All Rise...

Judge Christopher Kulik is the definition of incredulity.

The Charge

"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result."

The Case

Robert (Robert Margolis) is a struggling, overly ambitious NYC actor constantly on a quest for roles bigger than bit parts on the stage and screen. He shares an apartment with girlfriend Sally (Kelli K. Barnett) and young son Dylan. Utilizing an unseen cameraman, Robert documents his day-to-day life as he's strapped for cash and desperate to find work. In the beginning, he laments to the audience, "I just want to find a way to survive and keep doing what I love to do. To be honest, I can't imagine doing anything else besides acting!"

The plot synopsis for The Definition Of Insanity sounds undernourished and uninteresting, but this is one of the best examples of cinema verite I've ever had the pleasure of watching. Filmed as a fly-on-the-wall documentary, writer-directors Robert Margolis and Frank Matter (who plays the cameraman) present the blistering reality of working in a profession dependent on name recognition. Margolis is one of thousands of no-name actors concerned with holding down any job he can find; his journey is equal parts painful, funny, and ultimately sobering. The realism is further enhanced by urgent performances by Margolis and Barnett, as their relationship is tested by Robert's determination and stress.

The Definition Of Insanity is ruthless in its authenticity. Many scenes feel improvised, giving the project a raw power so many indies strive to achieve but rarely do. Margolis sometimes addresses the audience directly; other times we focus on his interaction with fellow actors and friends. As a result, it takes little time for the viewer to identify with Robert, rooting for him as he prepares for an audition in a new movie by Peter Bogdanovich, who directed such classics as The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon.

Another asset is Margolis' superb use of NYC locations, capturing all the gritty decay of an overpopulated city dealing with an ailing economy and limited employment. Filmed over the course of 18 months, we are glued to our seats as the American Dream slowly becomes a nightmare filled with fruitless pursuits and devastating consequences. Above all, The Definition Of Insanity is a quiet meditation on our hopes and fears, and it will strike an emotional chord with those in similar predicaments who face uncertain futures. Never does it send a message or boast an ego; it simply tells the story of one man devoted to acting and how he has tried for years to make a bigger step.

FilmBuff sent a screener, so I cannot really comment on the A/V quality. All I can say is the film is in widescreen, the audio is 2.0 stereo, and there are no extras.

The Verdict

Not guilty!

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 95

Perp Profile

Studio: FilmBuff
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 81 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Comedy
• Drama
• Independent

Distinguishing Marks

• None


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