|© 2007 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.
We certainly live in a celebrity-driven culture. Everywhere you turn you cannot
escape some mention of someone "famous" -- whether it be a movie star, a
debutante or the latest contestant on a reality television show. Andy Warhol's old
dictum of "everyone being famous for fifteen minutes" has almost been realized.
As the popularity of "American Idol" demonstrates, there is also no shortage of
people -- whether musically inclined or not -- who seek fame and fortune. In the
terrific and surprising GREAT WALL OF SOUND, filmmaker Craig Zobel explores
the underbelly of this phenomenon by centering on two somewhat desperate guys
who unwittingly become embroiled in a song sharking scam.
According to the press notes, Zobel has intimate knowledge of the process as his
father was something of a con man who posed as a phoney record producer and
swindled people out of their money. Using this rich source material, he and co-writer
George Smith have crafted an entertaining and pleasant independent film.
The film opens with the unemployed Martin (Pat Healy) as he heads to an interview
with a record company. Although he has had some experience working in radio,
Martin is a novice when it comes to scouting talent, but since he really needs a job,
he overlooks some of the warning signs and pushes ahead to get the position. He
and several other guys -- all pretty much in the same boat -- are selected and
"trained" by the slick bosses. At this seminar, Martin meets Clarence (Kene
Holliday), a middle-aged black man, and the pair strike up a friendship. Soon, they
are working as a team, heading to hotel rooms where they spend their days listening
to potential clients and attempting to persuade them to part with their money.
Both men are clueless about the true nature of the people for whom they are
working, yet they seem to have some sort of gift for the con. It isn't long before they
are being touted as the best producers with the stakes getting higher.
This is a small film that was clearly made on a shoestring budget, but in many ways
that works in its favor. The screenplay does bog down a little into a somewhat
repetitive manner in the middle section (I mean, there are only so many "acts" one
needs to watch to get the idea of what is occurring). Still, Zobel and his actors try to
find variations to maintain audience interest. There's the young girl who sings what
she refers to as a "new National Anthem" that moves Martin so much he is willing to
put his own money into her record. There are also a few savvy individuals who smell
something suspicious, and there are the naive but gifted, particularly a female
bartender (Tricia Paoluccio) whom Martin first tries to protect but then exploits for his
GREAT WORLD OF SOUND ends on a sort of bittersweet note as Martin realizes
what he has done and what the toll on his relationship with his artist girlfriend
(Rebecca Mader) might be.
The actors mostly do yeoman work, with Healy outstanding as the conflicted Martin
and Holliday (whom some may recall from the legal series "Matlock") nearly
stealing the film with his superb work. The pair have a great chemistry and are totally
believable as fast friends and co-workers. Most of the other roles are not as well
defined but the performers make what they can of the parts.
Rating: B +
|Pat Healy as Martin in
GREAT WORLD OF SOUND.
Photo Credit: Joy Kennedy
© 2006, GWS Media, LLC