|WAITING FOR GUFFMAN (1997)|
|"We consider ourselves bi-coastal if you consider the Mississippi River one of the coasts."|
|Time: 84 mins.|
For those of us who have been dying since THIS IS SPINAL TAP for another film from genius comedian Christopher Guest, the wait is over. WAITING FOR GUFFMAN is a hysterical, subtle send-up of small-town America that had me gasping for air. Guest assembles his regulars cast of comics O'Hara, Willard and Levy who bring life and laughter to their fame-minded characters. The lovely, yet quirky Posey is a pleasant addition to the troupe, bringing a youthful energy to the proceedings. One is never quite sure how much is scripted and how much is improvised, but either way, this is one of the funniest films to ever grace the screen. The dialogue may be off the cuff, but the characters are extremely well-defined and the plot fully developed.
We are taken to Blane, Missouri, a small town on the verge of their sesquicentennial celebration. Guest plays Corky St. Clair, an actor-writer-producer from New York City, who's in charge of creating the celebration's closing attraction a musical production about the history of Blane. Just like SPINAL TAP, the film is shot in a documentary style, and begins by introducing all the important players and their reasons for wanting to be in the show. The townspeople are a buzz with excitement and theatrical pretensions. Everyone wants a starring role in the show. We are taken through the entire production process from auditions to money problems to internal back-stabbing.
The film's finale is the play in it's entirety. The performers are extremely excited, not only to be performing for their town, but for a producer, Mr. Mort Guffman, that might bring their tiny show to Old Broadway. The play may be a joke, but you can't help but root for their success. They want it so bad you almost believe they could make it to the Great White Way. Until you see the show. It's awful as a piece of theater, but brilliant as a comedy bit. Think stools instead of Stonehenge and you'll get the picture. GUFFMAN has a similar feel to SPINAL TAP as they are both films about performers reaching for their very best, despite the fact they aren't very good. The musical number have the same ridiculous qualities though they are drastically different in tone.
GUFFMAN not only exaggerates the quirks and small mindedness of a small town, it relishes in them. Blane is a million places across this country and everyone will recognize it. However, the film is never mean-spirited towards it's residents. It just lets them be who they are, warts and all. Willard and O'Hara, as a married couple known/self-proclaimed as the Luntz' of Blane, are to die for. The fact that they're travel agents who've never left the city is merely icing on the cake. Guest shines as Corky, disappearing into the role of this sweet-hearted man who will do anything just to get back on the Great White Way. He couldn't be more gay, yet the townspeople are oblivious to his true nature. It's one of the best gags of the film. He's so good, I can't say whether I like Corky or Nigel better. Thankfully, I don't have to choose. WAITING FOR GUFFMAN is a delightfully different comedy treat that will make you laugh til it hurts...than hit you with more.