Shooting LivienReviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 03/22/05 11:18:52
SCREENED AT THE 2005 SXSW FILM FESTIVAL: I'll never know if Shooting Livien could have been a more enjoyable movie for me if I hadn't already watched four other films dealing with the same issue in the two days prior. This year's SXSW film festival seems hellbent to present a big issue every season; last year it was "George Bush must be stopped", this year it's "rockstars are amazing people who are completely unable to deal with success and cope with the world around them." Fearless Freaks explored the insanity (and genius) of the Flaming Lips, You're Gonna Miss Me went on a trip of madness and recovery with the 13th Floor Elevators' Roky Erickson, The Devil and Daniel Johnston takes the same path with Daniel Johnston, and DeRailroaded goes one better with Larry "Wild Man" Fischer. Quite the line-up, and each one hits an audience harder than the next. So what does Shooting Livien have that the others don't? Well, a cast, for starters.John Livien (Jason Behr) is a rock god. Or rather, he's a pre-rock god. He would be a bona fide rock god if he could just keep his manic temper and paranoid compulsions in check long enough to get a record deal signed, or finish a gig without going into a drug coma. His bandmates (Dominic Monahan, Joshua Leonard) are getting a little sick of the hystrionics, the record company execs are constantly being chased away, a new manager (Ally Sheedy) has a short amount of patience for childish games... and then there's the odd girl (Sarah Wynter) who introduced herself to Livien in a diner, and now won't leave his side. Sarah, thy name is Yoko.
Writer/director/producer (what, the craft services spot was already taken?) Rebecca Cook first blew back my eyelids with a little seen, but very much underrated film called The Chester Story a few years back. In one of those all too often occurences, Cook sent me a tape and pleasantly surprised me with her film, which though flawed, was good enough for me to share with people around me who enjoy good cinema. I looked forward to seeing how Shooting Livien would turn out, and I have to say that I was a little let down by it. It's not that Cook doesn't have a great touch at the helm of a film, or that her cast can't act - both assumptions couldn't be further from the truth. It's more that this is a story that seemed underdone, perhaps a little rushed into production rather than properly drawn out and characterized.
Livien could not be any further from the role of sympathetic character, coming acoss as a moaning meathead, determined to offend and annoy everyone who cares about him, to the point where he has nothing left for those people to stick around for. Actor Jason Behr does great work with what he has, but uiltimately you don't really care about Livien, nor necessarily want him to kick the monkey off his back.
Dominic Monaghan and Joshua Leonard, if anything, overshadow Behr's character with their playful humor, and Ally Sheedy and Sarah Wynter are great in their respective roles, adding depth of field to an ensemble that really wants to create something meaningful, but are let down by a story that folds in on itself just a few too many times, rather than stop, pause for thought, and allow those watching it relate. If anything, this is a case of ambition overstretching the need to be ambitious, while the basis of the film proper was allowed to sit in the background rather than up front where it was needed.That said, I think Rebecca Cook is one heck of a talented director who will soon find her footing in a major way. When the worst you can say about a director is that she tried too hard and shot for the moon too willingly, chances are you're talking about someone who will one day get the combination just right and blow audiences away. This is not that time, but it's a harbinger of great things to come for every single person involved - cast and crew.
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