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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Backstage > Musical > Satire > Pittsburgh (2006/Comedy/Anchor Bay)

Pittsburgh (2006/Comedy/Anchor Bay)


Picture: B-     Sound: B-     Extras: A-     Film: B+



Pittsburgh, starring Jeff Goldblum, is what has been lovingly referred to as a mockumentary, in the fine tradition of This is Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman, Zelig, and Best in Show.  Since it stars Jeff Goldblum, it might need a new category all together: hypermentary.


As with any mockumentary, the simpler the plot the better.  Jeff has a new girlfriend, Catherine Wreford, a Canadian actress whose work visa is about to expire.  They stumble on a way to stay; both will be cast in a summer production of The Music Man, which is taking place in Jeff's hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (disclaimer: this review is being written by a Pittsburgh native and, no, this is not an effort to extend the conceit).  In the summer of 2004, Goldblum did star in a Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera revival of The Music Man so that much we know is true.


And, yes, we have the so-so reviews to prove it (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 8, 2004, Pittsburgh Tribune Review, July 12, 2004).


And that, believe it or not, is the genius of it.  To have gotten the idea to film a major Hollywood star during summer stock in his hometown, with a grafted on plot about green cards before the production started was a decidedly brilliant stroke.  The film follows the couple from the inception of the idea, through auditions, rehearsals, dealing with panicked agents and a director concerned whether his star would be able to cut it.  There are lots of star guest appearances, including Ed Begley and Illeana Douglas, who were also in the Pittsburgh production of Music Man.  Begley sends himself up gloriously in a subplot dealing with his well-known ecological concerns and Douglas' "affair" with a sexually seedy Moby is just perfect.  Jeff's Conan O'Brien stint, too, is inspired, with O'Brien aloofly distancing himself from the

Hollywood star who is losing his edge.


Though local theater critic Jean Horne noted that Goldblum "can't sing or dance a lick," she also asks "Is it just me, or doesn't it matter."  Her answer is a resounding yes.  It was a fine balancing act Goldblum performed while in Pittsburgh.  He was followed around for a feature article about a Hollywood star returning to his hometown haunts (article by Chris Rawson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 4, 2004); simultaneously, while he was experiencing the incumbent nostalgia, a crew filmed the experience for a send-up of said experience.  The lines between fact and fiction were very blurry, indeed, probably not more so for anyone than Goldblum himself.


Most intriguing is Goldblum's portrayal of Harold Hill.   There is an analog here between Goldblum and the character he portrays: both are trying to get over with something that they are not suited for.  Goldblum plays against the self-assured character of Harold Hill.  We see him being berated by the director, watch his own neurotic musings as to his lack of ability and yet, like Hill, he pulls it off; not spectacularly, but he pulls it off.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image was shot in HD of some kind and looks fine for that, clean and clearer than usual, while the Dolby Digital Stereo track is as fresh and clean.  The combination is impressive.


Whatever you do, don't miss the outtakes.  This is one of those rare cases that the outtakes are worth every minute.  Not only do they not detract from the film, the outtakes themselves add to the film.  Any of them certainly could have been incorporated in with no loss of relevance nor interruption of pacing.  It makes the viewer wonder if it was a focus group, the director or some "savvy" studio type who felt 84 minutes was all we could take.


Sure, there is plenty of c*h*e*s*s*e* here.  And in Pittsburgh, the city, when you order a steak salad you get: cheese on top of fries, on top of steak, on top of salad, all adding up to a Pittsburgh steak salad.  You get something like that in Pittsburgh the movie, too; it's filling, it's tangy and, though it's probably not good for you, you love it anyway.



-   Don Wentworth


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