That Guy… Who Was In That Thing sits down with 16 recognizable “character actors”, talks about their lives and times, and the ups and downs of trying to carve out a living in Hollywood. It is quite possibly the most aptly titled movie I’ve ever seen.
“Character Actors” are the guys that play the lawyer, doctor, politician, cop, business man, middle manager, prisoner, guard, stooge or lackey in pretty much every movie or TV show ever made. Maybe they have a role or show that most people remember them from, maybe they don’t. Sometimes a That Guy has appeared in enough stuff, you might even remember his name when you see it in the credits. Most of these guys aren’t those guys, but you’ll definitely remember their faces. When the movie’s over, you’ll likely also remember their stories.
Now, to enjoy this movie, you have to remember something going into it: This is a documentary about actors, and their stories. If you’re not the type to find actors, or stories about acting, making movies, auditions, or other things that go on behind the camera to the people that appear in front of it… don’t bother. If you don’t like fishing, you’re not going to enjoy a documentary about fishing. You won’t. You can’t make it interesting if you’re not already at least slightly interested. This review assumes interest, because:
- I find this subject matter interesting.
- Many of the people who read this blog are cinephiles.
Right. Now that we’ve got that out of the way… on with the review.
The strongest element of this film is its “cast”. If you’ve watched any film or television in the last decade, you’ve seen the majority of these guys somewhere or another. Most of us can probably name at least one movie that we’ve seen with them. As the intro rolled, I recognized all their faces, and even knew two of them by name. That’s the reason I mentioned the fantastic title. Unless you’re a human IMDB/Wikipedia crossover (I know you’re out there, I used to be one) you’re going to end up saying “That guy!” pretty much every time a new face comes up. You might even remember their roles. Bogs, Cornflower Blue, President Logan, Senator Kelly, Brass, Bellick, and many others…
Most of them have some pretty interesting stories about what it takes to stick it out in the movie business. They chat about the ups and downs, the audition process, the long stretches without work, what the job is like being a perpetual guest star and stuff like that. It really humanizes several of these guys. Some of them always seem to play the bad guy, so its interesting to see them relaxed and chatty, as opposed to ominous and evil. At one point Bogs from The Shawshank Redemption (Pvt. Drake from Aliens if you’d prefer) shows us how he’s turned to Yoga to help him relax and stay fit… and that’s just surreal.
It’s also interesting to see how some of them, and their stories, still show the huge disconnect between the world of Hollywood and the rest of the world. Sure, these are real people and for the most part tell relatable stories… but some of their problems (manual labour and seeing taking on odd-jobs as a “loss of dignity”) and complaints sound like textbook First World Problem candidates. But even those “Oh, get over it moments” still add to the appeal of the movie, because seeing that somehow the disconnect from the Regular Joe’s reality is still is almost as interesting as feeling like you can relate to these guys.
The movie’s biggest failing is it’s inconsistent quality of camera and sound-work. I know it’s more the “In Thing” to have a guerilla film-making feel when shooting a documentary… but 99% of this movie is sit down interviews, in a regular old den, office, patio, or living room. You do not need to shoot extreme close-ups or cut off the subject’s forehead. Shaky cam is not needed. If you can’t focus on a single stationary subject in a medium shot, long enough to grab a story from him… you need a new camera man.
That being said, the documentary covers all its bases. It’s informative, funny, preachy, gossipy, whiny… the only thing it is (thankfully) missing is political. When all is said and told, though, the film is definitely entertaining. Senator Kelly is surprisingly animated. Bellick sings folk music. Bogs does the yoga stuff.