Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Shooting the Warwicks, Hating the Media
NSA surveillance has you concerned, the sort of intrusiveness the popular media
is capable of should make you downright paranoid. Ethics never enter the
picture when a television crew starts taping an oblivious average family chosen
at random. For the sake of ratings, the producer and his crew will
systematically tear down their lives—and we, the Gawker-reading gawkers are
complicit in their exploitation. Such is the state of the contemporary media
and pop culture according to Adam Rifkin, who has adapted his Showtime series Reality Show as the feature film Shooting the Warwicks (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in Los Angeles.
Warwick is a respected accountant. His wife Katherine is a satisfied homemaker
and their daughter Amy is the straight A captain of her high school cheerleading
squad. At least they were until Mickey Wagner started toying with them. Since
the network is convinced the maximum legal exposure is a breaking-and-entering
charge, they give Wagner the go-ahead to secretly install cameras all over the
Warwick home, as well as Dennis Warwick’s office. That way they will finally get
a really real reality show, since none of the Warwicks’ reactions will be
tainted by their awareness of the audience watching.
reading right now and call your local legislator to make sure there are sufficient
laws against this kind of invasion of privacy in your state. As for the
narrative, Wagner and company run into a bit of a snag when they discover the
Warwicks are pretty darned boring. With the network demanding sizzle reel
footage, Wagner starts manufacturing crises for his guinea pigs. Encouraged by
his success with the network honchos, he becomes increasingly cruel and
manipulative. Eventually, people will meet the same fate as Howard Beale, dying
course, Shooting is not Network—not by a long shot. Still, you
have to give Rifkin (who also co-stars as Wagner) credit for never sugar-coating
his media horror story or taking any easy outs. However, that also means the film
has no cathartic release. Essentially, viewers just get their noses rubbed in
the reality media’s rottenness for ninety-some minutes.
the Warwicks, Scott Anderson, Kelley Menighan Hensley, and Monika Tilliing are
almost too believably average and guileless. Watching them get destroyed simply
isn’t fun. On the other hand, Rifkin makes a thoroughly despicable jerkheel,
who we dearly want to see get his comeuppance. In a way, it is a little ironic
seeing him as the reality TV bad guy, when his previous film, the documentary Giuseppe Makes a Movie celebrated the
grungy zero-budget heroics of outsider artist-auteur Giuseppe Andrews. Arguably,
the two films represent the extreme ends of the reality media spectrum.
is like The
Truman Show with ‘roid rage. It is a caustic film that will leave viewers
depressed because it is so true to life. The media critique is spot-on, but
there is not a lot left for the audience to hold onto. Respected for its
integrity but not necessarily recommended, Shooting
the Warwicks opens tomorrow (8/7) in Los Angeles, at the Arena Cinema.
Labels: Adam Rifkin, Reality TV