Friday, June 24, 2005


Had a discussion at Laser Blazer the other day about the nature of Los Angeles. Namely, why Los Angeles is filled with so many massive assholes. Ivan's theory is that this is itself a popular misconception, that Los Angeles has no more or less assholes than any other city. He postulates that people who are themselves obsessed with the entertainment industry think LA is filled with assholes, but that's only because they have chosen to obsess over a business that is filled with assholes.

In other words, one notable breed of Los Angelino tends towards the assholeish, whereas all other Angelinos are perfectly nice, normal Americans, as you'd find in any other American city.

This is bullshit.

Of course, there are some cool, normal, nice people in Los Angeles, as you'd find in any other American city. But there is also a massively disproportionate number of self-involved, boorish, ego-maniacal jerks who think they are somehow better, cooler, hipper or more important than everyone else. This is a fact. And here's why.

Los Angeles attracts assholes like cooling pies on windowsills attract hungry cartoon characters. If you're a self-involved, boorish asshole in Madison, Wisconsin, convinced that you are star material and deserve wealth and fame, where are you gonna move to? Des Moines? Tuscaloosa? Newport News? Walla Walla, Washington?

No! One of two places: New York or LA. And unless you want to be a model, which is a particular, niche sub-strata of asshole, it's probably LA.

So we have a lot of assholes here. A lot. You deal with them all the time. People who are certain they are bound for fame and fortune. But beyond these aspirations, aspirations which many reasonable people share, they carry with them an excessive sense of entitlement. Not only will they be rich and famous, but they deserve it. It has already been promised to them, somehow, and they are eagerly waiting to collect.

I can't think of a better poster child for this obnoxious attitude than pseudo-filmmaker Troy Duffy, the subject of the fantastic documentary Overnight, that hits DVD on Tuesday. (See how I brought that all back around? I'm a fucking genius. Someone hire me to do this for millions of dollars NOW!) The filmmakers are long-time associates of Duffy who served as co-managers for his failed rock group Brood at one point. So, clearly, they have an axe to grind. What they have produced is not so much a definitive dossier on Troy Duffy the man, but a portrait of almost obscene disappointment. Of dreams coming desperately close to realization, only to be cruelly taken away. And even worse, fo that disappointment coming as the result of one's own mistakes and personal flaws. It's sometimes funny, but always heart-breaking.

Troy Duffy made headlines in 1997 as one of those heartwarming rags-to-riches type local news stories. A Boston native, blue-collar all his life with dreams of stardom, he worked in West Hollywood as a bartender. By nights, he wrote the script that would start a bidding war in Hollywood, a post-Tarantino pulp riff called "The Boondock Saints."

Eventually, Miramax co-chair Harvey Weinstein would buy "Boondock Saints" for an exhorbitant sum in a deal that included a number of outrageous perks for Duffy. Not only could he direct his own script, despite never having directed anything before in his life, but his band, Brood, could produce the soundtrack. As well, Weinstein promised to invest with Duffy in the West Hollywood bar where he worked.

Well, things didn't quite work out. Overnight chronicles Duffy's split with Weinstein, and then the long and troubled process of getting the film made and distributed. See, Harvey Weinstein's kind of a powerful guy in Hollywood. (When a low-level film producer is asked in the film how much power Weinstein has in Hollywood, she answers "all of it.") When he decides he doesn't like you, and he doesn't want your film to be made, things get kind of tough for you.

Amazingly, Duffy does manage to secure the ability to make Boondock Saints, which debuted rather successfully in 2000 as a direct-to-video title. But his arrogance, greed and delusional self-aggrandizement undo any chance of personal success, career or otherwise. During the course of the film, Duffy will alienate not only some of Hollywood's powerful elite, but his agents, friends, fellow band members, and his own brother, Taylor.

Duffy exhibits all the notable attributes of the Hollywood asshole. He never speaks (on-camera, at least) about his desire to do anything but obtain massive wealth and exert massive influence. For a man striving to become both a musician and filmmaker at once, he's not driven by any sort of creative or artistic impulse. Only the base desire to accumulate.

Despite not yet having secured an album deal, Duffy already speaks as if he's Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney rolled into one. Absurdly, he wears a hat emblazoned with a "Boondock Saints" logo before the film has even entered pre-production. He repeatedly declares himself the first man in history to secure a record contract while producing his first feature-film. More than once, he speaks of going toe-to-toe with Miramax, and defeating them within the industry they partially control.

Duffy is drunk through most of the film. Whether this is a function of the filmmakers bias or Duffy's real life behavior is unknown to me. What I do know is that you could follow me around with a camera for a decade, and not get this many shots of me falling on my ass after slugging too much Jack Daniels. Close, but not quite this many.

It's his paranoid aggression that eventually drives those closest to him from his side. When the band secures a record contract and garners a cash advance, the filmmakers are denied any compensation. Duffy explains that they only worked hard for the band hoping to get something in return, so they don't deserve anything. It's confused, twisted logic, obviously designed to cheat them out of money. Overnight, I suspect, is their revenge.

But despite the personal motives of Tony Montana (yes, that's how he's credited) and Mark Brian Smith, Overnight is a remarkably touching success. It's one-sided, in that the filmmakers obviously dislike Duffy and seek to portray him as a jackass (this doesn't seem very difficult), but they don't totally ignore some of the complexities at the edges of the story.

They grant that, as written, "Boondock Saints" was a pretty good script that deserved a shot. And they definitely lend credence to the theory that Harvey Weinstein buried the movie out of spite, having disliked Duffy's arrogance and resented his lack of appreciation for Miramax and Weinstein's generocity. And the filmmakers even include themselves in the very sad montage that ends the film, showing Duffy and all his friends, who had once been so sure of their success and financial security, working day jobs and living like schlubs. (Montana is seen tossing down shots in J. Sloan's, the same bar Duffy worked at the film's beginning).

This is a terrific movie, one of those documentaries that came together purely out of divine providence. The fact that Smith and Montana were right there the entire time with cameras, to document the rise and fall of this sad little man, is something of a miracle. Overnight might be hard to hunt down in mainstream video stores - who knows...maybe Blockbuster will carry it - but if you can find it, watch it. It will grant you at least some perspective on why LA is pretty much the worst city in the world. Except maybe Baghdad.

1 comment: said...

The guy is totally just, and there is no skepticism.