I wait every week for Tuesday’s new movie releases at Blockbuster and Redbox because sometimes I think I have exhausted the shelves; but yesterday I found a diamond in the rough: Cinema Verite.
If you have not seen this HBO movie about the Loud family, which takes place in 1973, then you are missing a great movie with some outstanding acting. Cinema Verite is the story of the PBS documentary about the predecessor to all reality TV: An American Family ─ and as much as I hate reality TV for its intellectual imbecility, I was surprised by the story of which I knew nothing about.
The Loud family of Santa Barbara, California was chosen by film maker Craig Gilbert (James Gandolfini) to be the subjects of a series that would bring the camera into their home and document their lives for all Americans to see (sound familiar). By appealing to Bill and Pat Loud’s vanity (Tim Robbins and Diane Lane), Gilbert suggest that the series would appeal to all as an American postcard for the ideal family and when they agree to do it, the fireworks begin.
Bill Loud is a successful businessman who brings home the bacon, but spends a great deal of time on the road ─ a little too much time. His wife Pat is a semi-liberated woman and appears to be content, while managing the affairs of their affluent lifestyle by taking care of her three boys, two daughters, and even the dog. When Bill Loud is exposed as a swinger and the eldest son Lance (Patrick Dekkar) is exposed as a flaming homosexual, the cameras get a little too close for comfort. Film maker Gilbert now has something to work with. He suggests to Pat that her husband has been engaging in inappropriate behavior, and when Pat begins to do some research she finds a trophy collection of her husband’s conquests. The wheels fall off and the cracks become deeper, while Gilbert fans the flames until divorce is imminent. (The thing that you have to remember here is that the story is not being scripted like some nonsense from The Osbourns or Jersey Shore: This is not The American Family, it is The American Tragedy.)
The acting by Robbins, Lane, Gandolfini, and Dekkar are outstanding in their portrayal of the Loud family. Camera crew, husband and wife team (Patrick Fugit and Shanna Collins) add a nice touch as sympathetic participants in the disaster. HBO doesn’t make too many movies any more, but when they do, they usually hit a home run. See it. (It may be worth it to go back and watch the original 12-hour PBS series.)
My Rating: 5 of 5 Reality Breakdowns.