Judge Patrick Bromley is definitely not a cornflake girl.
Tori Amos is living in Seattle…and he's pissed!
Far Too Gone wants to be a kind of Waiting for Guffman for the underground set—a vulgar, edgy mock-doc about a group of misfits living in Seattle. The movie follows a documentary crew as they profile a man named Josh (writer-director Brian Labrecque, his only credit to date), a hometown legend who wanders the streets in a bathrobe, sundress, and three-dollar red Halloween wig believing himself to singer Tori Amos. He's followed by two hangers-on: valley girl/Goth chick Malaise (Felecia Banegas, her only credit to date), who is obsessively in love with Josh, and silent-type rebel Salem (Robert N. DeVoe, his only…well, you get the picture), who seems to loath Malaise but is actually obsessively in love with her. I wish I could say there's more to the story, but there isn't; the rest of the movie simply trails these characters as they have various run-ins with disgruntled family members, pot-smoking hippies, and a combative record store clerk.
It might be that the easiest way to explain why a movie doesn't work is to compare it to one that does, which is why I bring up the cinematic canon of Christopher Guest and his repertory company. Guest's films (Guffman, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind) are mockumentaries, too, but at the same time manage to tell a story—the movies are built around a central event, whether it's the production of a play, a competitive dog show, or a reunion of folk singers. That center not only affords the film a structure, but also gives the characters in it focus—we get to know them in relation to that center. Far Too Gone has no such center—there's nothing holding these characters or their actions together, and the whole thing just wanders off into space. Even at 50 minutes, the film tediously tries ones patience; there might only be enough material here for a ten or fifteen-minute short.
The dialogue is scripted when it should feel spontaneous; on the other hand, the cast flounders when left to their own improvisations. That's another thing Chris Guest gets right—he fills his films with gifted ad-libbers and truly funny people. The cast of Far Too Gone shares few of those talents (a couple of them—specifically Labrecque and Banegas, show a flair for comedy, but I know that I'm just trying to find something nice to say); "interview" segments will go on and on with repetitive talk about how crazy Josh is, but there is no build or direction to the story the interviewee is telling. The scenes can't sustain themselves. And why the Tori Amos stuff? Besides being a little on the obscure side, it seems to have been included purely for the sake of its own wackiness. It's hardly ever dealt with; save for a few throwaway references, we only see Josh as his foul-mouthed, aggressive self. Exploring the life of a guy who really does believe himself to be Tori Amos might have been interesting: does he learn and mimic the singer's mannerisms? Sing her songs? Can he even play the piano? These are all questions the movie isn't interested in answering. It's too bad, too—at the very least, addressing that reality would have given this shapeless film a focal point.
Far Too Gone comes to DVD courtesy of Go-Kart films as yet another example of just how revolutionary the format is becoming in the distribution of independent film. The movie is a truly homemade effort, amateurishly shot on video (which we're meant to excuse as a result of its mockumentary format) with a small group of what appears to be friends and locals. I'm not sure it would have seen the light of day outside that circle if not for the DVD market, and for that we can all be thankful (that filmmakers have the abilities to get their work seen, not that we can see Far Too Gone). The movie is presented full-frame and looks exactly like what it is: cheap home video. Depending on the lighting, the image varies from bright and clear to dark and streaked. The stereo audio track passably delivers the dialogue, as it's not the fault of the disc that much of the audio was recorded against overpowering background noise.
There are a handful of extras included on the disc, beginning with a too-serious interview with Labrecque from what appears to be a cable access TV show. There's a small collection of deleted scenes and "bloopers" (none of which are funny, and all of which just show actors blowing their lines or laughing), as well as some footage from the Seattle premiere of the film shot on what appears to be half-inch video tape; in the under-lit conditions of the theater, the segment is nearly unwatchable. The song used as score for the film can be accessed, but it's not a video—it plays over a single static image. Two short films are also included: one, a story told by Labrecque over a series of crude drawings, suffers the same problem as Far Too Gone—it meanders, and could have been funnier if severely tightened up. The second is just some home footage of a friend explaining why he has to pee when he gets drunk.
That second "film" is indicative of my feelings on the entire supplemental section of the disc: that they have been included solely for friends of the director and the people involved in making the movie. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe there's a whole following who will love Far Too Gone and, not satisfied with just the film, will want something more. I don't want to know those people.
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