"Man of the Year" is a black comedy set at an energy industry party captured in roughly real time by 24 mini-DV cameras. Pic, directed and "conceived" by Straw Weisman uses improvised dialogue and a cast of more than 20. A transfer to celluloid could make this a pickup for theatrical play, but split-screen images will make ancillary a challenge.
This review was corrected on Mar. 14, 2003.
“Man of the Year” is a black comedy set at an energy industry corporate party captured in roughly real time by 24 mini-DV cameras. Pic, directed and “conceived” by Straw Weisman, uses completely improvised dialogue and a cast of more than 20, blending in split-screen stylistics somewhat similar to those in Mike Figgis’ “Time Code” and “Hotel” or in Duncan Roy’s “AKA.” Ensemble proves improvisationally capable, but film overall is rather conventional, a Hollywood idea of an experimental film presented with a heavy serving of showbiz-type cynicism. An eventual transfer to celluloid could make this a pickup for minor theatrical play, but multiple split-screen images will make ancillary play a true challenge.
Energy exec Bill (John Ritter) is the figure of honor at a bash hosted by industrialist Stuart (Clayton Landey). But from the number of cameras set up throughout the mansion, it seems Bill may be stepping into the most elaborate homevideo recording set ever attempted. Given Bill’s worries his latest deal may run afoul of regulators, it’s a wonder he and other partygoers would blab away secrets in front of the many spying lenses.
Bill receives word during the party that a major deal with Argentine customers has collapsed due to his sexual peccadilloes, and his VP Vanessa (Khrystyne Haje), tells Bill and his wife Carol (Heidi Mark) that she’s having Bill’s baby. Bill’s loan shark Mickey (Dan Ponce) is also, rather strangely, on hand, getting party gals high and hiring a contract killer to get Bill, who owes him considerable gambling debts.
Several peripheral characters play more credibly, such as Stuart’s unhinged sister Flora (Lin Shaye), or two strangers (Jade Carter, Adria Dawn) who get stuck in an elevator outside the mansion.
Bill’s quite predictable demise recalls the image of William Holden face down in a pool in “Sunset Boulevard,” and pic’s overall depiction of the party feels much closer to a typical Hollywood Hills affair than an event associated with an energy firm. Impression is further reinforced by improvising thesps, who doubtless have dipped into their collective memory of showbiz bashes to call up for several lively performances. While Ritter is never exactly credible as a titan of industry, he brings different levels to the characterization of a man trapped between acclaim and destruction.
Production appears appropriately feverish, given that lensing was done during a continuous 12-hour stretch. Tech aspects are subpar, especially the audio.