on netflix-dealin’ with idiots

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Today, the newest installment of the Hunger Games trilogy opens up in theatres. For most movie studios, the tentpole feature is now their bread-and-butter, a proven way to get audiences to the cinema. Thanks to Netflix and other Video on Demand (VOD) services, smaller films have an easier time of finding a wider audience. I’d like to examine some of those pictures, starting with Jeff Garlin‘s Dealin’ With Idiots.

 

Idiots, at its core, is a part of the new populace of tv shows and films based largely in part on the act or experiences of its creator.  Notable examples have been Marc Maron‘s eponymous IFC tv show as well as Mike Birbiglia‘s semi-autobiographical film Sleepwalk with MeWhile those focus on what it means to be a single comic at different stages of life, Idiots (also an IFC feature) is about Jeff Garlin’s experience as a father, interacting with the characters surrounding his son’s youth baseball team.

Much like Sleepwalk, Garlin does not play himself. Rather, he plays a fictional version of himself named Max Morris.  Frustrated by the ridiculous actions of the other parents and coaches at the games, he finds inspiration for a movie and begins interviews. Each interview is staged a bit like a vignette, with Morris getting to the bottom of each character’s background.

 

Garlin enlisted a great cast to help him round out this movie. There’s Curb co-star JB Smoove as a guy who lives in a “compound” and is part of a group writing their autobiographies.  Bob Odenkirk portrays the coach of the team, a print shop manager who won’t let his locksmith brother fix a door due to an ages old affair.  Other fantastic actors include Fred Willard, Richard Kind, and Kerri Kinney-Silver.  Each interview brings Morris closer to a breaking point, not knowing how to react to the complicated, unusual lives these people lead.

 

Idiots has a distinct way of dealing with act breaks. In these moments, Morris will zone out and flash to a conversation between him and his father, portrayed by Timothy Olyphant.  Max’s dad generally offers old-guy advice without much substance. However, each one makes Max reflect upon the events he’s going through and progress the story.

Ultimately, Max breaks down at a pivotal game in his son’s season. The framing of the shot and the actions therein reveal everything Max has been through and the response he’s wanted to give.  Dealin’ With Idiots is a great character study, though the story is pretty weak in and of itself.  I found Sleepwalk with Me a bit more enjoyable, if only because I related to it. Movies like these continue to prove that consumers will turn to Netflix to catch original pictures.

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