Friday, October 24, 2008

Thank Your Lucky Stars You Are Not In Chris Jaymes’ Family…

A young man (Jeremy Sisto) gets high with his cousin's boyfriend (Eric Michael Cole) and wanders around in a bathrobe, distraught over the fact that his wife (Monet Mazur) kissed a female friend of hers; his older brother Matt (Keeslar) sleeps with their dead father's newest wife (Judy Greer)-- while his corpse is still in the room, I must add; and a "seventeen year old" (Christine Lakin) gets roofied. Sounds like any wannabe Playboy mansion party, right? Well it’s not; in fact, those are the events that unfold in Christopher Jaymes’ new dramatic narrative, In Memory of My Father.In Memory of My Father doesn't so much say independent film as it does scream "a bunch of buddies rent a camera and pretend to be slightly different versions of who they really are." In fact, though the events center on the patriarch of a family's death, his wake is only full of thirty-somethings who all seem to be there because they are friends or exes or current boyfriends and girlfriends of his kids, and it looks much more like a pool party than a period of mourning. For simplicity's sake, each said kid is just named for the actor who portrays him or her-- and each of those characters is more pompous than the last-- yet each also seems to think he or she is plainly philosophical. That alone is something else that is quite common to those in L.A., let alone in the film industry, and because egos run rampant in In Memory of My Father, it is just self-deprecating and self-reflexive enough to have those who are infatuated with any and all things Hollywood eating out of the palm of Writer/Director/Star Chris Jaymes' hand. To the more general masses, though, his attempt at a pseudo-intellectual commentary ends up sounding more like the incoherent ramblings of those whose synapses are chemically fried; it is the kind of piece that many will scratch their heads at but then end up praising simply because they think what they don't understand must be over their heads. In that way, In Memory of My Father almost suffers from the David Lynch syndrome.

The film opens with Jaymes standing over his "father's" dying body, holding a Canon XL2 and capturing the old man's last few breaths on tape, as was apparently demanded from he who dedicated his career to the business of production. He is supposed to document what his father meant to those in his life through interviews and raw b-roll footage, which he hires a few extra guys to wander around and shoot. Perhaps Jaymes was distracted, though, by wearing so many hats both behind and in front of the camera-- or perhaps he was on something himself when he wrote and shot this whole feature in the span of a week's time-- because the resulting film is overly convoluted-- one part verite and one part melodrama-- and tries to do too many things, say too many things, and be too many things all at once. It comes across that Jaymes is desperate to make a statement as an auteur in perhaps the same narcissistic way his characters are desperate to be the center of attention at a time and in a place that really should be about something so much greater than just them.

Jaymes is oddly comfortable in such a dysfunctional world, which may make his own story more interesting but doesn't do much for a film that could have benefitted from a fresh pair of eyes, if not at least a slightly different perspective. In one scene, he sits down at the piano in the living room to sing an original and supposedly "on the spot" ditty about his family, delivering more exposition than emotion. When his uncle "who stole his mother from his father" slaps him across the face and says he's "the most selfish bastard he's ever known," it's hard not to agree. Though there is pain behind Jaymes' words and actions (as there is with all of these no-last-name kids), it is damn near impossible to relate to the immaturity that abounds.

There are so many superfluous F-bombs and excessive sex talk and drug use in In Memory of My Father that suggest a savagely raw attempt at authenticity but comes out just... sad. These grown men and women act more like kids now than they probably did when they actually were minors-- forced to grow up quickly on the outside due to both their father's professional and personal way of life but stunted emotionally and left in a perpetual state of adolescence. They may not be able to grieve for the man they think they lost years before his heart and lungs finally gave out (though flashbacks indicate there was more love there than these overgrown teenagers can acknowledge), but they can't seem to stop grieving for themselves, locked in a constant state of self-pity that is just-- despite the best marketing efforts to convince us this is actually a dark comedy-- sad.

In Memory of My Father does have phenomenal casting on its side-- Jaymes is the spitting image of a younger David Austin, who plays the deceased father, and the supporting cast is full of familiar faces from both television past and present from Sisto to Greer to Nicholle Tom and Marc Vann, each of whom delivers a performance from the gut, causing conflict within the viewers when they find themselves hating the character but rooting for the performer-- but the film itself is manic, mirroring how the characters themselves teeter on the edge of a complete breakdown. Is that a completely a unique and refreshing take on such a serious and personal subject? No, but it is profound nonetheless because between the fighting, the cursing, the incestuousness, and the self-medicating, facing your own family during this upcoming holiday season should suddenly be looking better and better!

No comments: