Man of the Year (review)

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This exercise in improvisational acting and low-budget on-the-fly filmmaking is more interesting in its ambitions than it is entertaining or intriguing as a story in its own right. Director Straw Weisman set up 24 digicams in 20 rooms of a Hollywood Hills mansion and invited a small army of actors — including John Ritter (Bad Santa) in his last starring role — to invent a tale, over 12 hours of continuous shooting, of personal and career comeuppance during an all-night party. Multiply split screens show us up to 12 different angles on the action at once, and while the initial grating of the conceit does fade, we’re never quite sure how we’re supposed to accept the surveillance notion: The host of the party is obviously videotaping much of the event with his handheld camcorder, but are the other cameras supposed to be “real” — that is, do the partygoers know they’re being videotaped, or is the homeowner a peeping tom? Or is Weisman merely offering us a god’s-eye view? All interpretations lead to credibility problems — these people wouldn’t do or say half of what they do and say if they knew they were being recorded, and yet there’s a showiness to the other half that makes it seem as if they’re playing for a camera. But that could be a case of a talented but overeager cast excited to be flying without a net.

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