Tuesday, November 16, 2004


* * * (out of four)
Seen 14 November 2004 at the Brattle Theater (Sunday Eye-Opener)

The title of Tony Montana's and Mark Brian Smith's Overnight implies some sort of change, but the truth is that Boondock Saints writer/director Troy Duffy was probably a jerk before he got a movie deal. That said, his unpleasantness is right out there for the world to see - one must infer it for Montana and Smith.

The movie starts with news coverage of the deal that Troy Duffy signed with Miramax - where he would not only get to direct his screenplay, but his band would do the soundtrack, he would have casting approval, and Harvey Weinstein was buying him the pub where he'd been tending bar for good measure. His band, The Brood, includes his brother Taylor and a couple others; this documentary's directors are the band's co-managers. They probably intend for this documentary, started in 1997, to cover Duffy's rise.

Duffy is full of himself, though, and soon alienates people at Miramax. The band's record deal evaporates, and he lashes out at Tony and Mark, saying that they don't deserve to get paid for what little they'd done for the band, that all the group's success came from him. This is likely the moment where Overnight stopped being a documentary and started being a hatchet job.

One might wonder, though, why Montana and Smith kept up with it, or why Duffy let them keep following him around. If I'd basically been called worthless and told I wasn't getting paid for my services, I'd be looking for actual gainful employment. But, then, I'm not a hanger-on, which seems to be the best way to describe Montana and Smith based upon what we see in their movie. And apparently hell hath no fury like that of a pair of hangers-on scorned. They take great delight in showing Duffy getting his come-uppance, and because Duffy is a pompous ass, the audience enjoys it too. As to why Duffy let them keep following him around, well, I've never had hangers-on, either. Losing them must be like losing some sort of ongoing validation that you're important and matter.

But, underneath it all, I couldn't help but find something I liked about Duffy. I never want to meet him, or work with him, mind you, but I can't help but admire that when all is said and done, he made a movie, one which has something of a cult following, and wound up doing it for half the budget he'd originally planned on having. He doesn't seem too bright (he didn't get a piece of the TV and video action where the movie has made most of its money), and he made a classic mistake: He didn't realize that the industry was filled with people smarter than he was - or if he did, he thought being hard-headed would be enough. His perception that he could make it by being as big a bully as the Harvey Weinsteins he met up with didn't bear out, but it's born out of the same drive that made him a worthy documentary subject in the first place.

So... now that I've gotten through my emotional reaction to the subject matter, I suppose it's time to say what I thought of Overnight as a film. It's not bad at all, once you've made the adjustments for who is making it and their readily apparent antipathy for their subject. The film compresses five years of time into an hour and a half, and they must have had a lot of footage to sift through. The editors do a great job constructing a coherent, attention-keeping narrative from that raw material. There is, of course, the question of selective endpoints - the film sort of treats the Boondock Saints screenplay as something which came into existence on its own, giving no indication that writing it must have been hard work, or really any depiction of who Duffy was before the fame/infamy. The IMDB shows Duffy at work on a sequel to Boondock Saints, but you'd never know he was anything but finished by the end of Overnight.

Overnight is an entertaining movie and a useful parable about a man living the dream and then pissing it away because he couldn't grasp how lucky he was. You'll laugh at Troy Duffy and probably come away with some small feeling of moral superiority. Just keep in mind the likely motivations of the filmmakers.

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