Review: ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’

The outer frontier of celebrity culture, where fandom meets mental illness, is home to "I Think We're Alone Now."

The outer frontier of celebrity culture, where fandom meets mental illness, is home to “I Think We’re Alone Now.” This docu about two very different, very strange individuals, both convinced they are soulmates for grown-up 1980s teen-pop idol Tiffany, has an undeniable train-wreck fascination a la such prior nonfiction exercises as “Crazy Love.” Despite its slim runtime, it stands a fighting chance of niche theatrical exposure before hitting smallscreen avenues.

Middle-aged Californian Jeff Turner has Asperger syndrome and has found Jesus. He is also a committed conspiracy theorist, and believes his beloved is an interdimensional time traveler who “has many gifts, calling, annoitings … she does deal with aliens … the most Christlike person I’ve ever known.”

Now in her late 30s, Tiffany, aka Tiffany Renee Darwish, first took out a restraining order against Turner at age 16, when she was at the height of her youthful fame. (Title is taken from her biggest hit, a 1987 cover of Tommy James’ 1967 bubblegum smash.) He remains unperturbed in his conviction that they’re meant for each other.

A 31-year-old Denverite with a wheat-colored dye job, Kelly McCormick likewise believes, “My destiny is to be with Tiffany.” This irregardless of the fact that she’s a self-described born “intersex” hermaphrodite on hormones, looking to complete sex-change transition. Sometimes, McCormick appears so heavily medicated that she has trouble speaking; at others, she’s the picture of health, an ever-in-training marathon runner.

Things go from merely weird to mega when the two subjects — presumably at filmmaker Sean Donnelly’s behest — begin to communicate, then actually meet. Positing himself as a close personal friend of Tiffany’s, Turner invites McCormick to attend the singer’s upcoming Las Vegas concert with him. There’s a smug, competitive edge to Turner’s delusional bragging, while McCormick stays focused on fulfilling her dream of actually meeting the star on this Earthly plane. She does — and viewers may be surprised by what transpires.

Just who’s craziest here is a matter of opinion likely to change several times during the film. There’s a surprise at the close (as one figure abruptly switches obsessive allegiance to another celebrity), and Donnelly manages to end things on a somewhat upbeat note.

Unsurprisingly, access to Tiffany’s music and performances was not granted. (Nor did she grant an interview, though she is filmed at public events.) But otherwise, the lady seems an awfully good sport under these circumstances. Assembly is low-budget but sharp.

I Think We're Alone Now


An Awesome and Modest production, in association with Greener Media. Produced by Sean Donnelly, Jordy Cohen, Phil Buccellato. Directed by Sean Donnelly.


Camera (color, mini-DV), Phil Buccellato; editors, Donnelly, Buccellato; music, Alessandro Minoli, Dan Wholey, Malcolm Francis, Cyrus Shahmir, Calvin Lam, Palo Colorado, Josh Neumann, Sean Bones; sound, Charlie Tighe. Reviewed at San Francisco Documentary Festival, Oct. 29, 2008. (Also in Slamdance, Cinequest, Melbourne film festivals.) Running time: 70 MIN.


Jeff Turner, Kelly McCormick.

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