Review: Man in the Chair

Man in the Chair is more exorcism than resuscitation.

Man in the Chair
Photo: Outsider Pictures

When his buddy Joshua (Murphy White) asks him if he’s seen The Fisher King, Cameron Kincaid (Michael Angarano) replies, “Terry Gilliam, cool director.” That’s the extent of these kids’ movie love, even though the posters in Cameron’s room suggest a more serious engagement with cinema history. Unless, of course, the posters are really just a reflection of writer-director Michael Schroeder’s own favorite cinematic pleasures. Through Cameron, the filmmaker literalizes a specious desire to resuscitate a lost form of movie art, but unless I had a good eight-dozen acid flashbacks during Man in the Chair, the film is more exorcism than resuscitation—a neorealist drama passed through a J-Horror filter. Not that the flashy, herky-jerky superimpositions that litter the film are the extent of the old-meets-new ridiculousness the film flaunts about. When the promise of a college scholarship convinces the delinquent Cameron to go straight, he enlists the help of crotchety Flash Madden (Christopher Plummer), a gaffer who worked on Citizen Kane, to help him make a short film, at which point the stage is set for a didactic harangue about (a) the way the movie industry treats its behind-the-scenes talent, (b) nursing home abuses, (c) pet euthanasia (‘cause, you know, dogs are people too), and (d) how much Nietzsche sucks. Flash exits the picture on cue, everyone learns a life lesson, and much musical twaddle of the adult contemporary sort is lavished on the sincere but bird-brained proceedings. Like Flash, Nietzsche is redeemed when one of the German philosopher’s famous sayings about great men being made by great sentiments is used to tie up a corny plot thread, though the adage is also Schroeder’s attempt at justifying his art. But it’s another line, delivered within minutes of the film’s start, that more accurately describes the man in the chair who was also responsible for Cyborg 2: “It doesn’t take talent to make a movie in Hollywood.”

 Cast: Christopher Plummer, Michael Angarano, M. Emmet Walsh, Robert Wagner, Tracey Walter, Joshua Boyd, Mimi Kennedy, Mitch Pileggi, Taber Schroeder  Director: Michael Schroeder  Screenwriter: Michael Schroeder  Distributor: Outsider Pictures  Running Time: 107 min  Rating: NR  Year: 2007  Buy: Video

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez is the co-founder of Slant Magazine. His writing has also appeared in The Village Voice and The Los Angeles Times. He’s a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, the Critics Choice Association, and the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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