Lindy Heymann and Christian Taylor’s “Showboy” is a mockumentary about a man who exists just to be famous, and and his odyssey from Hollywood assistant to Las Vegas “Showboy” (as opposed to Verhoeven’s “Showgirls”). It’s a rich idea for a comedy, even if the filmmakers seem timid about making the pic the full-on satire it might have been. One-note premise eventually becomes tiring, but before that, laughs are plentiful, and pic seems destined to find a small but devoted cult audience at future festival engagements on the indie and gay/lesbian circuits.
Pic’s biggest drawback may be its use of the too-trendy mockumentary format. The trick here doesn’t seem integral or necessary, and it’s given away much too soon.
Auds are supposed to believe that Heymann (a real British documentary filmmaker) and her crew are working on an hourlong television docu about Taylor, who is indeed a writer-producer on “Six Feet Under.” In pic’s early moments, Heymann “accidentally” overhears a conversation in which Taylor is fired by “Six Feet Under” creator Alan Ball. She decides to follow him for the rest of the summer, hoping to find an ending to her film, never letting on she knows he’s been let go.
More improbably, Taylor plays along, too ashamed to admit the “truth” and strangely welcoming of the intrusion of Heymann’s crew into his life.
Heymann follows Taylor to Las Vegas, where he claims to be researching a script and, even more improbably, where he gets work in a chorus line. Taylor rooms with one such veteran “chorus boy” (Erich Miller) and “Showboy” evolves into a sun-drenched parody of “A Star Is Born,” as Taylor sets about an embarrassing series of dance lessons and auditions that seem more like a brand of torture than a logical career advancement. Still it can be uproariously funny to watch Taylor’s earnestness at odds with his ineptitude.
The chief effect of “Showboy” is its keen sense of the despair of Vegasand, by extension, showbiz. he film never does an adequate job of explaining why Taylor, who has no prior acting or dancing experience, would choose this career path as an immediate alternative to writing; still, there’s something so uncannily pathetic about watching Taylor try, that it hardly matters.
Film’s “actors” are often shot in silhouette, against Vegas’ incessant sun, and heat and neon. Ultimately, though, Heymann and Taylor seem to want to have its acid-tinged cake and eat it too, and the film feels soft around the edges, like a chorus boy who’d never make the cut.