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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Greatest Dad, Big Fan offer winning portraits of losers

click to enlarge MUG SHOT: Robin Williams (center) succeeds as a loser in World's Greatest Dad.
  • MUG SHOT: Robin Williams (center) succeeds as a loser in World's Greatest Dad.

It’s an offense to the natural order. Occasionally you’ll go to the movies and realize that the people in the audience are cooler and better-looking than the characters on the screen. It’s as if the losers, pretenders and flops, the Travis Bickles and Rupert Pupkins, are on the verge of taking over the movies.

When the majority of films specialize in glamorous, larger-than-life fantasies, it’s often a shock when cinema focuses on the petty and pathetic. Christopher Guest and Ricky Gervais excel at cringe-comedies about clueless no-talents, while more serious filmmakers such as Todd Solondz and Alexander Payne find more darkly funny dimensions of American failure. Their antiheroes frequently come across as pathetic, but not sympathetic, and the films waver between respect for characters who cling to their delusions, and contempt for their aspirations to better their miserable lives.

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(Photo by Courtesy Magnolia Pictures)

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