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movie and film reviews

A M B U S H   M a g   2 0 0 0 - V O L U M E   1 5 - I S S U E   9  

Real to Real
by Chuc LaVenture

Waiting for Guffman

What a hoot! I was under the impression that satire wasn't being done anymore. Here though, we have classic satire complete with its absurdity and ability to make us feel uncomfortable. Satire is the use of irony, derision, or wit to expose folly or wickedness. Waiting for Guffman is a derisively wicked piece that exposes grand folly. The movie is a mock documentary about the events surrounding a small Missouri town's sesquicentennial celebration. The center piece of this celebration is the musical "Red, White and Blaine," thus the main focus of this mock documentary is the making of the musical. We are privy, however, to city council's deliberations on the placement of port-o-potties for the parade.

Christopher Guest is Corky St. Claire, the high energy (read nellie) drama coach at the local high school. He has been petitioned by the City Council to create a play tracking the history of the small town of Blaine, the Stool Capital of the World. ("Stool" here, of course, refers to foot stools). Corky, who has put on a number of productions in this small town, is absolutely certain that given the town's expansive talent pool and his genius, they should be able to put on a production that is Broadway bound.

The cast, assembled from Blaine's expansive pool of talent, is everything you never wanted to see on stage.

Guest, who co-wrote this screenplay with Eugene Levy of SCTV fame, skewers every aspect of small town life. This was the uncomfortable part of the movie for me.

I swear I know a few of these people. Dr. Allen Pearl is the singing dentist. He aspires to perform because of his ancestral connection to Yiddish theater. The local travel agents, Ron and Sheila Albertson (Fred Willard and Catherine O'Hara), are sure that with their talent they can make it in Hollywood. They are, we must realize, more experienced of the world than most, though they've never left Missouri.

We are introduced to the multi talented Libby Mae Brown (Parker Poesy). She can do the splits and is the counter girl at the local Dairy Queen. Briefly we meet the town mechanic, played by Matt Kesslar, who doesn't have any particular talent but looks wonderful without a shirt. Lewis Arquette plays the taxidermist and narrator.

Corky is so sure of the success of his Musical that he writes to a number of production agents in New York, inviting them to the performance. It is only the good Mr. Guffman who responds in the affirmative.

Mr. Guffman is, of course, our Godot. He never shows. It is the expectation though, of his arrival that works as catalyst for the ever expanding absurdity of these characters.

Is the musical discovered?

Does it go on eventually to Broadway success?

Does our troupe of local artists rise to its aspirations?

You'll have to see the movie to find out but if you like Theater of the Absurd you will love this movie. If, on the other hand, you are uncomfortable with derision or caricature, find something else to see.

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