(James Franco, Megan Fox, Seth Rogen, Jacki Weaver, Danny McBride, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (2019) 2021 / MVD Visual)
Overview: Vikar (Academy Award Nominee James Franco, 127 Hours) is a lost soul journeying through a land of myths, beauty and monsters Hollywood, 1969.
The studio system is in decay, and a new generation of brash filmmakers are on the rise. With his shaved head marked by a tattoo from his favorite film (1951s A Place in the Sun) Vikar is a bizarre presence even amid the freaks and dreamers.
He finds work first building sets, then as an apprentice editor obsessed with wielding the power of moving images. As his involvement in the creative process deepens, so does his fascination with a tragic screen goddess named Soledad (Megan Fox, Transformers).
Together they discover just how hard it is to live in the blurred boundary between reality and fantasy.
Blu-ray Verdict: Filmed in late 2014, the film was going to be released by independent distributor Alchemy in early 2016, but the company filed for bankruptcy shortly after. In April of 2019, it was announced that myCinema would finally release the film in September and now MVD Visual has brought it out on wondrous Blu-ray.
James Franco has put together a most unusual career as both actor and director. Here he takes on both in this adaptation of Steve Ericksons novel, with a screenplay by Paul Felten and Ian Olds.
It is a movie seemingly made for movie nerds, but this particular movie nerd, while enjoying some of the homages, mostly found it a wee bit too quirky to completely embrace it.
James Franco plays Vikar, a socially inept loner with a shaved head and permanent scowl. On that head is a tattoo of Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift from A PLACE IN THE SUN, the first movie the sheltered Vikar ever saw (11 months ago), and the one that initiated his obsession with movies.
Vikar finagles his way into the industry - first as a set builder, and then under the tutelage of veteran film editor Dotty (Jacki Weaver) - reaching award winning status as a filmmaker.
Along the way, the character of Vikar recalls Chauncey Gardner in BEING THERE. Is he a genius, or so simple-minded that his thoughts are accepted as brilliant?
It is 1969, and in an early scene, Vikar is interrogated by police regarding the murder of Sharon Tate. This is our first indication that fact and fiction will be blended here to make whatever points the film is trying to make.
Vikar befriends Viking Man on the set of LOVE STORY, and we soon realize John Ford wannabe Viking Man (played by Seth Rogen) is a stand-in for John Milius ... a Hollywood legend worthy of his own film.
The two new friends attend a beach house party where a group of up-and-coming filmmakers are brainstorming in the living room. Represented are Steven Spielberg, spit-balling a shark movie; George Lucas, yammering about robots; and a young Scorsese and Coppola.
Vikar is soon attracted to and dreaming of a beautiful actress named Soledad Paladin (Megan Fox). This shift of gears to romance from industry commentary does the film no favors.
The film is at its best when Vikar is navigating the waters of a Hollywood in transition, including an old school power producer played by Will Ferrell.
One of his scenes has him singing Lum-de-lum-de-lai in an odd show of power as he attempts to win the girl. Others making an appearance include Danny McBride, Dave Franco, and Craig Robinson - as a burglar who educates Vikar on the nuances of SUNSET BOULEVARD, Erich Von Stroheim, and MY DARLING CLEMENTINE. Joey King also has a key role as Soledads daughter Zazi, and she even sings on stage.
There are so many nods to Hollywood, that the film plays more like an experimental art project or trivia game than an actual story. The famed Roosevelt Hotel is featured, as is Frances Ford Coppolas (played by Horatio Sanz) out-of-control film set of APOCALYPSE NOW.
A quite colorful description of John Wayne is offered up, and the silent classic THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST takes center stage. We even get Iggy Pop and The Stooges at CBGB, and the first song we hear is Its My Life by Eric Burdon and The Animals.
A key note here is that this was filmed in 2014, and has been caught up in a quagmire of bankrupt distributors ever since. That could explain the questionable flow and editing, but we can assume the wild camera angles were all part of Francos plan.
Indeed, it really plays like an experimental film and it covers a few years, though we are never really sure how many. The twist at the end is pretty easy to predict, and unfortunately, it leaves us wondering where an obsession with cinema is likely to lead us. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Feature of:
Original Theatrical Trailer