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Carving Out Our Name

Repping a chance to watch fame as it happens -- or doesn't -- for four young actors, Tony Zierra's docu "Carving Out Our Name" should have provided a real-life contrast to Griffin Dunne's concurrent mockdoc satire "Lisa Picard Is Famous." Unfortunately, this incredibly pretentious, ponderous effort blows that chance big-time.

Repping a chance to watch fame as it happens — or doesn’t — for four young actors, Tony Zierra’s docu “Carving Out Our Name” should have provided a real-life contrast to Griffin Dunne’s concurrent mockdoc satire “Lisa Picard Is Famous.” Unfortunately, this incredibly pretentious, ponderous effort blows that chance big-time. Focusing on home-movie level errata, never asking any of the seemingly obvious questions — from “Why did you become an actor?” to “What was working on ‘American Beauty’ like?” — near-unwatchable pic leaves a potentially great subject untapped. Despite presence of at least one thesp (“Beauty’s” Wes Bentley) with marquee value, “Carving” will need considerable re-editing to tempt even fringe theatrical or cable sales.

Zierra has so much luck on his side from the outset that feature’s inability to capitalize soon seems willfully perverse. He shot footage over five years of peer friends Bentley, Chad Lindberg (“October Sky,” “The Fast and the Furious”), Brad Rowe (“Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss,” TV series “Wasteland” and “NewsRadio”) and Greg Fawcett, starting when the four were L.A. housemates without a significant screen credit among them.

Even medium-level success happens to so few who come to Hollywood that this group’s general good fortune seems to guarantee the film’s own. But Zierra’s priorities are inscrutable at best, irrelevant at frequent worst. Among the basic questions never addressed here: When and how did the four young men (and the filmmaker) become friends? How long did they share the same rental home? How did each win potentially breakthrough parts? Which others did they lose? How does success change them?

Just what does “Carving” manage to spend almost two hours on? Well, there’s much footage of the guys goofing around with one another, hanging with their girlfriends, driving around town, exulting over good news, bumming over bad, having “deep-in-thought” moments that are meaningless since we never get to know them well enough to imagine what those thoughts might be.

Bentley comes off as most charismatic and unassuming of the lot. But the only one whose vulnerabilities are really glimpsed is handsome, luckless Fawcett — and it isn’t flattering. From the start, Zierra almost exclusively shows him in manic, sulking or jealous moods.Nor do Bentley, Lindberg and Rowe appear fulfilled by their variable degrees of eventual success. Why? Pic doesn’t inquire.

When Bentley is seen at a wintry rural Canadian shoot, there’s no mention what the pic is (Michael Winterbottom’s “The Claim”). Apart from a brief “Charlie Rose” clip with “Beauty” co-star Kevin Spacey, there’s no significant commentary here from fellow industry players.

Occasional rough sound and vid lensing would be less bothersome if overall content were worth the concentration required; what’s onscreen easily could be pared to an hour or less, with no one other than friends and family members regretting the loss.

Carving Out Our Name

Docu

  • Production: A Masselin production in association with the Perpetuals. Produced by Wes Bentley, Chad Lindberg, Brad Rowe. Executive producers, Tim Anderson, Alex Ebert. Co-producer, Elizabeth Yoffe. Co-executive producer, Marc Finkel. Directed by Tony Zierra.
  • Crew: Camera (color/B&W, video), Zierra; editors, Chris Murray, Zierra; original score, IMA ROBOT, John Paesano; sound design/editing, Paesano; associate producer, Heather Burgett. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Real to Reel), Sept. 11, 2001. Running time: 106 MIN.
  • With: <B>With:</B> Wes Bentley, Chad Lindberg, Brad Rowe, Greg Fawcett, Lindsay Fellonbaum, Lisa Rowe, Jenny Quanz.