The outrageous tale of a Morrissey fan gone wrong!
Jackie is obsessed with Morrissey. Actually, obsessed doesn't quite describe Jackie's condition concerning the former lead singer of The Smiths. Jackie adores Morrissey. Jackie worships every microscopic aspect of Morrissey. She's built a shrine to the rocker in her bedroom and her apartment walls are covered with posters and photos of him. She's even created elaborate social and sexual fantasies about being with the mopey British pop star and spends her off hours driving around L.A., hoping to track him down. One night, she actually meets her idol. But things don't work out the way she imagined or planned they would. As a result, Jackie starts to lose her grip with reality. She torments her co-workers. She jeopardizes her job. She breaks the lease on her apartment and begins plans for a wedding that will never happen. As she falls further and further into psychosis, her elaborate Moz hallucinations grow more fevered. Eventually she is completely insane. It will take a lot to bring Jackie back to the real world. But she will argue that love conquers all in My Life with Morrissey.
Okay, I guess I have to break down that fourth estate wall again and personally go on the record as being a raging Morrissey/Smiths fan. Since day one, when a little single called "Hand in Glove" taught me that the phrase "the sun shines out of our behinds" could be a viable rock sentiment, I understood the impact of this British band on my future life. Back when I was a college D.J. I fell in love with these Manchester popsters' morose worldview and chiming guitar hooks and an instant, lasting relationship was born. I bought all their albums/CDs and memorized favorite lyrical passages. I wanted Shelia to take a bow, help the shoplifters of the world unite and take over, and was wary of how to respond when the band asked, as part of their swansong "stop me if you think that you've heard this one before." I followed Morrissey and Marr as they went their separate ways, and when Viva Hate was released, each song seemed like a synopsis of my life at the time (without the flamingly gay overtones, mind you). As Marr fell off the mainstream scope, Moz took over, front and center, and through style changes and eccentric videos, I was in gloomy gladiola heaven. Every day was indeed like Sunday for me and I felt just like one of those ordinary boys, happy knowing nothing. From wondering who was the last of the famous international playboys to trying far too many interesting drugs, there was a strange cosmic intermingling between the pomp poof's poetry and Gibron's Grand Guignol life.
Then something strange happened. I grew up. I became a jaded old fart whose musical taste suddenly seemed Mesozoic—and when faced with a classroom of teenagers all mocking your old school punk and new wave tendencies, it's easy to see how one wallows in their past instead of taking a chance and embracing the new. I've learned a great deal about modern music while teaching high school, and little by little those bands that meant so much to me in the '80s began fading into the background. So when I saw a title called My Life with Morrissey starring at me from the screener list, I thought, what better way to get reacquainted with an old friend than through the art of cinema.
I should have stuck with converting my CD collection to MP3s, or better yet, reread my old Mojo Magazines. This so-called independent comedy is neither funny nor fair to the talent or fans of its main melodic focus. It takes pot shots at the close connection people have to the artists that they love and belittles the emotional pull of music on the soul. Part of the problem is with the way in which the script tries to create humor. Instead of developing believable characters with clearly defined personalities and quirks, it forces stupid, impractical idiosyncrasies on the cast and then hopes you laugh at how outlandish and outrageous they are. And here is the weird ass part about this film: it was created by several of the mainstream masterminds behind SpongeBob SquarePants and is supposedly partially based on a true incident that happened to star Jackie Buscarino. Huh? The kings of Krabby Patties and pet snails have found a way to squander all their talents you say, and make a movie that lacks that crazy cartoon's creativity and comic sensibilities? The answer, sadly, is yes.
The problem here is that My Life with Morrissey is not bad, it's just not very good. It's not hilarious or inventive enough to rise above the psycho fan storyline to tell us something insightful, and thereby character driven comedic, about the people it portrays. Fanaticism and its inherent issues is a tricky tale to tackle; more times than not, the central individual knee deep in the hyperactive hoopla comes across as pathetic, not heroic. Maybe it has to do with the neurosis gone nuclear nature of mental derangement. Or maybe it has to do with the fact that My Life with Morrissey doesn't really want to deal with obsession. It is more concerned with crackpot characterization (balding manchild ex-cons, gangs of lesbian Catholic schoolgirl rapists) to approach the subject seriously or sarcastically. And then, even through they have an enigmatic individual in Morrissey, they make no attempt to fill an audience in on who he is or what he stands for. Basically, there is an assumption on the part of the filmmakers that everyone knows The Smiths and their flamboyant (ex) lead singer and then just riffs from there. While a film on such a low budget can be forgiven for not featuring one song by the band or Moz (it would have lent the movie a nice ironic tone, though), to never once discuss the singer, describe what he is doing in L.A. (apparently, he lives there), or hint at his cultural impact undermines everything about the narrative. Maybe the filmmakers thought this would heighten the mania in their main character's craziness, basically a "who is this guy and why is she so in love with him?" ideal. But all it really does is turn My Life with Morrissey from potentially enjoyable to a hatful of hollow.
There is a very professional look to this film (and we apparently have Nickelodeon to thank for this fact) and the 1.33:1 full screen image is good. It does still have some issues. Occasionally, compression appears during the rapid-fire edits and zoom close-ups. At the end of the film, during an action scene, we lose the picture for a second—almost as if a digital frame is missing. On the sound side, the ersatz alterna-rock tracks that make up much of the backing score come across as drab and derivative in either of the supposed surround presentations. As for extras, there are some interesting bits here. The deleted scenes show how many sequences in My Life with Morrissey were stripped of busy, montage stylizing and streamlined for the film itself. There is also a nice slide show of stills from the production. Director Andrew Overtoom includes a 30—minute documentary on real life Morrissey fans attending a Smiths/Moz convention that should have been more fascinating than it is. While the people come across as genuine, the questions asked are all softballs and we never learn anything revelatory. Same goes with the group commentary. Featuring several of the crew and a couple of cast members, there is a lot of sour grapes expressed over everyone's treatment at the hands of "the only television network for kids" (all of which really has nothing to do with this movie), and anytime they can get a dig in at the company's expense, they do. We learn about the production, but mostly this is a bitch session, so be prepared for the vitriol.
One of Morrissey's most famous songs is "We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful?" With a first film like My Life with Morrissey, there is no danger of this motley crew turning into a bunch of intolerable buddies. Nothing triumphant will come out of this trite take of furious fan fascination.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Music Video Distributors
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