Thursday 2 July 2015

Lost in showbiz: "How to Lose Jobs and Alienate Girlfriends"

In its opening credits, the Aussie doc How to Lose Jobs and Alienate Girlfriends bills itself as simultaneously propaganda, a selfie and a film by Tom Meadmore; it is, clearly, one of those projects that only revealed its true shape deep into post-production, long after some harsh life lessons had been learnt. It's intended as a dispatch from the creative coalface, with former Neighbours day player-turned-Tarantino wannabe Meadmore picking up his camera to record the daily existence of those around him: his boss Tony, a fortysomething Brit who makes his living as a travel filmmaker, while harboring hopes of becoming a rock star, and his girlfriend Amanda, a jobbing waitress with dreams of forging a career as a singer-songwriter. Six months into shooting, however, it became clear that no-one was getting anywhere fast, and so the result is a cover-up job, cursed with a particularly poor script.

There are two possible interpretations for what we're watching. HTLJAAG might stand as a monument to the rampant narcissism of certain creative types, who believe audiences will enjoy handing over £10 to observe the most banal and trivial details of their lives; in this regard, it merits that initial "selfie" labelling, but as Tom, Tony and Amanda point the camera at one another, any revealing or useful insights into the creative process prove non-existent. If just one of these three had a unique talent you couldn't take your eyes off, you might have forgiven the film its self-absorption, but while Tony and Amanda can play and sing, much as Tom can set up a shot and push the right button to record it, there's absolutely nothing on show in this hour-and-a-quarter that makes the viewer want to see more of them. (Between the egotism and vapid soul-searching, you may prefer it if you never saw anything of them ever again.) 

The other interpretation, and this one grew on me as the film laboured on, is that it's all a calculated wind-up on Meadmore's part, engineered as the most efficient way of giving all those before and behind the camera a leg up into the public eye - no more than a sex tape played out with clothes on, in which the principals give the illusion of revealing something of their innermost selves, their aspirations, struggles and eventual disappointments, while keeping the beadiest of eyes on future riches. Either way, in this golden age of committed, crusading documentaries - films dedicated to seeking out stories you won't have heard before, about subjects who face far greater challenges in life than landing a record deal - this ragbag of cliches and cobblers hardly seems the most noble contribution to the form, nor the wisest use of anybody's time. Couldn't someone have handed Toadfish a camera instead?

How to Lose Jobs and Alienate Girlfriends plays at London's Genesis Cinema, followed by a Q&A, this Saturday at 4pm.

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