California Dreams review: docu-drama crosses line between art and exploitation

the Guardian | 2/14/2017 | Ryan Gilbey

Cory is an aspiring actor who is holding a yard sale to raise the cash he needs to fly to Berlin for an audition. Patrick is 28 and has never kissed a woman, unless you count his mother or grandmother. Neil is a budding screenwriter obsessed with Taco Bell. Carolan lives in her car but has already written her Oscar acceptance speech. And Kevin, who sports a custard-coloured mullet and runs a storage company, is confident about his own star quality. “When I walk into a room of 1,000 people, 999 of them are looking at me,” he says. “The one who isn’t is blind.”

This is the cast of California Dreams, a bittersweet comedy that occupies the grey area between documentary and scripted reality, and comes across like Napoleon Dynamite meets American Movie. (Mark Borchardt, the subject of the latter, puts in a cameo here.) The writer-director Mike Ott devised situations that would reveal his performers’ personalities and longings, including an acting class where the ingenuous and mildly camp Cory has to play a tough cop, and a series of auditions in which each participant delivers a monologue from a favourite film. Neil chooses Harold & Kumar Get the Munchies; Patrick picks Forrest Gump because “it shows how powerful cinema can be”. He should know: he used to think it was a true story.

Ott - Screenplay - Sorts - Cast - Film

Ott also wrote a screenplay of sorts from which his cast, who are all playing themselves, then deviated wildly and at will, resulting in a film that in one sense grows documentary out of the seedbed of fiction. Straightforward verité footage, such as scenes showing Cory at home with his mother, is bled into the mix, along with the occasional fantasy sequence. But the warm sheen of Mike Gialoukis’s cinematography lends everything the same ravishing, magic-hour beauty:...
(Excerpt) Read more at: the Guardian
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