Since “An American Family” was a TV show that arguably went too far, is that why “Cinema Verite” overcompensated by not going far enough? HBO teamed up with the directors of “American Splendor” to tell the story of the first reality TV show and the ethical lines it crossed. Since reality television is so much part of regular broadcasting, a look at where the chaos began is very compelling, yet everything feels so tame.
The film cuts from watching the filmmakers follow a single family to the actual footage they’re capturing. Shouldn’t there be more of a difference between the two? Since reality is being sifted through this lens and perspective, this could have been an opportunity to see what was missing in the final product. Instead, it’s all just bland on both ends.
Playing up any sort of shock value won’t work because we’re already exposed to some of the most maddening forms of “entertainment” in existence. So “Cinema Verite” should have looked at why and how such a thing could have occurred. Any argument with the producers or the crew was cut short to focus on the subject’s marriage or unhappiness.
By the end, the family argues they were naïve going into this project, but that’s never seen in this movie. Characters are openly judged, and the film clearly points out who it thinks is right and wrong. That’s done so pointedly this feels like reality as seen through a reality show as seen through a movie to where the truth is further diluted.
This is the perfect time to release such a story, but none of it makes an impact. A movie like Albert Brooks’ “Real Life” holds more weight than this. It’s too bad because Diane Lane and James Gandolfini give great performances as the housewife and the movie producer who get over their heads. (Tim Robbins is fine too, but his performance just had me thinking he should have replaced John C. Reilly in “Carnage”)
The DVD is pretty lacking, but that’s expected for an HBO movie. There’s a commentary track with the directors and Lane. Then there is a throwaway three-minute featurette where the actors tell you the plot of the movie.
Film: 3 Yaps
Extras: 2 Yaps