Hollywood fantasy meets Dr. Kevorkian in this drolly dark tale of a depressive Candide who decides to stage his suicide as a movie. When his glory-hungry handlers realize that his death is their only ticket to the big time, protag finds it hard to back out. In their feature debut, helmer Mark Osborne and his brother, scripter-star Kent Osborne, make an impressive showing with a smart, carefully modulated dissection of the manias bred by pop-media imagery. Whether or not its offbeat, expertly acted mix of surrealism, satire and idiosyncratic comedy catapults it from fest to theatrical exposure, pic marks its sibling co-creators as talents to watch, together and individually.

Hollywood fantasy meets Dr. Kevorkian in this drolly dark tale of a depressive Candide who decides to stage his suicide as a movie. When his glory-hungry handlers realize that his death is their only ticket to the big time, protag finds it hard to back out. In their feature debut, helmer Mark Osborne and his brother, scripter-star Kent Osborne, make an impressive showing with a smart, carefully modulated dissection of the manias bred by pop-media imagery. Whether or not its offbeat, expertly acted mix of surrealism, satire and idiosyncratic comedy catapults it from fest to theatrical exposure, pic marks its sibling co-creators as talents to watch, together and individually.

Set in suburban L.A., tale seems to spin from the addled head of Emile (Kent Osborne), a bright-eyed young couch potato who spends his days glued to the tube , fixating especially on sitcoms and nature documentaries. When TV isn’t making Emile inordinately happy, it makes him try to kill himself, which he’s doing one day, rather messily, when he gets a call telling him his application to work in a nearby motel has been accepted.

Assigned the night shift and partnered with humorless, officious Henry (David Koechner), Emile attains a kind of bottom-rung capitalist nirvana. When snack time arrives nightly, he goes to a huge, brightly lit supermarket and fantasizes floating among the aisles. But this happiness, too, eventually verges into thoughts of ending it all, and Emile suddenly has a new idea: he’ll videotape the act and send the tape to the girl who rejected him.

Getting the videotape to its recipient poses a problem, though, so Emile enlists Henry’s help. Thus does a simple act of self-extermination become a project. Henry brings in his friend Andrew (Vince Vieluf), who regards himself as a movie expert because his uncle directed episodes of “Mama’s Family.” Soon enough, Emile’s tape becomes an important documentary-in-the-making, then something even grander, with gaffers, makeup artists and studio execs buzzing in and out.

Not surprisingly, all this activity and common purpose makes Emile happy again. But who wants to hear it when says he’s thinking of not killing himself after all? That’s right: no one. Yet returning to Plan A, as he’s soon persuaded to do, has its own complications.

Never an outright yokker, pic makes its points mainly through sly, deadpan character comedy and absurdist touches. Early on, Emile’s mind occasionally glides into TV-bright, surreal, upbeat fantasies that are dexterously staged and filmed. Throughout, helmer Mark Osborne displays a sure, imaginative hand, getting vivid, memorably funny perfs from his fresh-faced brother as well as supporting players Koechner and Vieluf. Other thesping and tech credits are top-notch.

Dropping Out

Production

A Flemington Pictures and Bad Clams production. Produced by Steve Kalafer, Neil Machlis, Michelle Imperato-Stabile. Executive producer, Daniel M. Stillman. Directed by Mark Osborne. Screenplay, Kent Osborne.

Crew

Camera (color), Brian Capener; editor, Kris Cole; music, Jack Pendarvis; production designer, Diane Yates; costume designer, Greg LaVoi; sound, Itamar Ben-Jacob; casting, Anne McCarthy. Reviewed at South by Southwest Film Festival (competing), March 11, 2000. (Also in Sundance Film Festival --- American Spectrum.) Running time: 109 MIN.

With

Emile Brockton ..... Kent Osborne Henry Johnson ..... David Koechner Andrew Heller ..... Vince Vieluf Scott Kayle ..... Adam Arkin Ronnie ..... John Stamos Melissa ..... Jennifer Elise Cox Bob ..... Dylan Haggerty
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