SHOWBOY

4 Stars
Year Released: 2003
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 89 minutes
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Stories of success or failure from actors are plentiful. But as Lindey Heymann points out in her documentary, “Showboy,” nobody ever hears about the struggling TV writer. Co-directed by the documentary’s subject, “Showboy” follows English writer Christian Taylor as he deals with post-success rejection.

The documentary begins with footage from the 2003 Golden Globe Awards where Rachel Griffiths won for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television for “Six Feet Under.” Upon expressing his gratitude in being able to do something he enjoys, Christian Taylor gets fired and will no longer be a writer for “Six Feet Under.” Unmistakably devastated but in denial, Christian relocates to Las Vegas without informing the British film crew that is making the documentary about him. Heymann manages to track him down, and “Showboy” takes an unexpected turn.

Instead of being completely honest about getting canned, Christian affirms that he will return to “Six Feet Under” in the fall and that during the summer, he’ll be in Las Vegas researching for a script he’s writing. You, the viewer, and Heymann both know he’s withholding the truth. The film crew continues to document Christian’s activities in Sin City—dancing. Christian is taking dance classes and going on auditions for Las Vegas shows and explains to Heymann that it’s all part of the research process. You can’t help but think that perhaps Christian isn’t writing at all. Jason Buchtel, the documentary’s producer, entertains the benefit of the doubt. Maybe Christian is a method-writer and rather than simply interview dancers, he wants to experience everything.

Witty, touching, and slightly wacky, “Showboy” explores issues of journalistic and artistic ethics. For instance, Heymann’s boss wants a juicy story about a writer who loses his job and then spirals into anguish or insanity. Heymann knows that there’s more to the documentary. She wants to wait to see how things proceed and not give the impression that she’s exploiting the documentary’s focus. As the summer months go by and the film crew captures conversations with Christian’s friends and acquaintances and films his auditions, you realize that there ‘is’ more to the dancing than hardcore immersion for research. It becomes fairly obvious that Christian’s script either never existed or is on permanent hiatus.

Although his impassioned interest in dance seems like a symptom of madness, it’s actually a sign of a metamorphosis. Some people are chefs their whole lives or a businessman by day and a lounge singer by night. Christian was a writer and is now a show boy. It’s pretty unimaginable that over one summer, he’d decide to be a dancer. Nevertheless, it’s gratifying to see Christian’s agility improve and self-confidence increase. Like Whoopi Goldberg remarks near the end of “Showboy,” “no dream is crazy if you want to live it.”



Posted on May 21, 2004 in Reviews by
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