Well, ultimately, I think The Village Voice nailed Man in the Chair about as well as anybody, but to be fair, the film did get better when it focused more on the old people involved. I thought I knew a thing or two about Hollywood, but I didn't attend high school in Hollywood. That's sort of the perspective we get here in the place holder of our hero, baby-fat-ridden high school student Cameron Kincaid, a director's name if ever there was one. James Cameron, Cameron Crowe, Cameron Kincaid - the big three, if you will. Also, I hate to say it, but hanging around film geeks must be pretty painful for the average person. I'm a film geek and even I grew tired of Cameron and his best friend. Or maybe I'm just not hip to the film geek youth anymore.
The film establishes early that our hero is a troubled youth. Cameron is on his bicycle, and he gets taunted by a gang of white punks in their late 20s in a nice car. Cameron starts to flee, but then doubles back, riding over the car with his bike. Why? Because it's awesome! Duh! Next scene: Cameron's in class, and the punks in the car are in the back of the classroom. Some might say that if you're in the same class with the bully, you're probably not going to do that to his car, but what do I know? The chief bully's also an aspiring director named Brett Ratner... I mean, Brett Raven. The inevitable pounding in the hallway is pretty tame, but Brett knows how to hurt Cameron: by telling him he has no chance of winning that film festival contest. I want to grab the first third of this film by the neck, shake it and say "GET A LIFE." There's more to life than the making of a film. The rest of the film eases up on it a little, and there's a nice twist to the ending. For some reason I hate to spoil it, I guess because I want you to suffer as I have suffered.
There's a good friend of mine who just hates it when the title of the movie is used in the movie's dialogue. Barton Fink is the exception to the rule, of course... not Charlie Bartlett. Plucky old geezer Christopher Plummer tells the kid, "Ah! You want to be the man in the chair," meaning the director of a film. The man in the chair of Man in the Chair is Michael Schroeder. He was the first assistant director on a movie called Jocks, a film they showed on USA Up All Night hosted by Gilbert Gottfried. I remember this because Gilbert played a mime, with narration provided by some wicked French dude. The other film was Off the Mark... I assume the link is correct. I don't think Schroeder was involved with that one, but it seems like the kind of thing he might have. He was also an A.D. on Million Dollar Mystery, which apparently has been permanently banned from ever being shown on TV, and rightly so, frankly.
The late 80s-early 90s were a step up for Michael Schroeder, as he himself finally became the man in the chair, if only on such video store shelf mainstays as Cyborg 2 and Cyborg 3: The Recycler. It took him ten years to get Man in the Chair made... why do I get the feeling that the Robert Wagner character in the movie is an isomorph of Angelina Jolie?
Kudos to M. Emmet Walsh on a gritty performance, but when he quotes Hunter Thompson near the end, it's more of what we expect from him. Somebody give him a role in a Funny or Die video as Newt Gingrich. He's the only guy who can do it! And of course, one last tribute to the script. At one point, Mulder's boss on The X Files takes sympathy on the Plummer character by saying "My ass bleeds for you." As does mine for this film.
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan