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Half Empty
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by Katharine Leis

"Charming, funny, and touching."
5 stars

The only information given about this film prior to viewing was that it was a comedy mockumentary, a musical...and that it was shot in Germany. What to make of that? Within the first few minutes, it was evident that this was an original, charming film, and it only got better from there.

The film opens with Bob Patterson (Robert Peters) and his soon-to-be ex-girlfriend Adele (Adele Uddo) in bed together one morning. Adele is full of drama, but the only reaction she manages to elicit from Bob is that he grabs his sharpie and note cards and starts writing down “good” quotes.

Bob is a motivational speaker, or “happiness counselor” as he deems it. He does public speaking and conferences for companies to make their employees happier. He has also written a self-help book entitled North Star, because "the North Star is the only constant in our lives."

Bob meets with his publishers, a loud bunch of yes-men, and soon finds out that his book has only sold one copy in the USA in the last year and a half… and that copy was returned.

However, there is good news.

Bob is apparently huge in Germany. With that news, the publishers and secretary break out in song, “You’re Big in Deutschland,” and the first taste of Peters’ humor is put on display. Note: the song and scene are both funny and catchy, and the tune may remain in one’s head for several days. Bob is booked for a week long tour, book signing, and to speak with famed self-help guru Blane Abernathy at a conference.

The trouble begins.

Bob is met at the airport by Greta Hagemann (Mareike Fell), who works for the publisher as a liaison for authors to make sure they get to where they need to be on time. She quickly goes from being uncomfortable to annoyed as Bob shares some of his many happy quotes with her. The next song, “I Wonder Where We’re Going,” begins with an interesting three way split screen of Bob, Greta, and the view from the car.

After a mix up at the hotel, Greta has already reached her breaking point and lets loose on Bob. She tells him exactly what she thinks of his book and his philosophies, and it is far from good.

From there, we’re taken along to a strip club, triathlon, book signing, conference, and many other places. We’re introduced to a wide range of characters, from Greta’s angry wannabe rock star boyfriend Andreas (Marek Harloff), to Bob’s one and only truly devoted fan (Bela B. Felsenheimer), to the motivational guru Blane Abernathy (Stephen Israel) whose motives are not so altruistic when viewed close up, and then some.

Through their travels, we see how people create the world around them more on attitude that circumstance, more on perception than reality. Bob is determined to be positive, but in a mess of negative and phony people, it becomes tougher and tougher to be so. Greta is conversely determined to be miserable and angry, but with Bob’s constant one man cheering section, she finds that more and more difficult to achieve.

Very clever and dynamic editing keeps the pace of this film very high. A few key scenes were edited so well that they can’t be called less than genius. In particular, the night club argument scene and aftermath, and the irony drawn out with Greta’s friend as he drives Greta and Bob to the strip club. The reality of the characters and the seamless flow of the scenes make it difficult to believe that this film was loosely scripted.

The songs in the film are outstanding and moving, and could easily stand alone as popular folk/pop sings. If this film does make it big, the soundtrack will no doubt be a hit.

Peters acting is top notch. His expressions and delivery of innocent little side comments provided for countless laughs. How the other actors kept from laughing is a wonder. Particularly Fell, whose almost constant pained expression let the audience know that she is unbearably miserable. All of the actors were so true to their characters that the film was believable in its entirety. The camera work and editing were creative and different, yet professional. No easy task with a documentary style film to say the least.

I really loved this film. I don't even like musicals or mockumentaries, but Half Empty is definitely an exception.

This film is all the things that the bigwigs go for…it’s endearing, sweet, hilarious, and very well put together. No scene or emotion is forced, and there’s even a big lesson to be learned in the end. You can read about happiness in a book, or a song, or be told about it by another person, but until you want it, it will escape you. If all you want is happiness, mountains become hills and "set backs become opportunities." Half Empty is a wonderful film that I highly recommend everyone sees and enjoys. We need more films like this one.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=14508&reviewer=360
originally posted: 06/04/06 11:23:38
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