USA - 1997

Movie Review By Andrea Chase

"Anthem" sounds like a great idea for a documentary. Two women working in Hollywood's lower echelons decide to chuck it all and drive across America, cameras in tow, to see what's out there. What they came back with, though, is like a better than average home movie that wouldn't interest anyone outside the immediate family. Not that they didn't try. They lined up interviews with some pretty darned interesting people like Studs Terkel, George McGovern, and Andrei Codrescu. But the finished product looks like nothing so much as two hours worth of outtakes.

Where did it go wrong? Part of the problem is that there's no overall theme to make it hang together in a decisive fashion, and I can just imagine what happened. They got home, looked at the footage and went, o pish, this stuff is just all over the place. Hey, I've got an idea, let's use that as the theme! Like so many ideas born of panic and too much caffeine, it sounds better than it plays.

Then there are the interviews themselves. They're dull. And this can't have been easy to pull off so consistently. I've been thinking now for over a week, and not without an odd sort of respect, about the finesse necessary to make the original gonzo, Hunter S. Thompson, boring, especially when you consider that they caught him as he was working on Jerry Garcia's obituary.

"Anthem" does have two things going for it. The first is Michael Stipes of R.E.M in stream of consciousness mode, free-associating topics ranging from his grandmother to oral sex. The second is the appreciation this film promotes for really well done cinema-verité documentaries. Worthy efforts like, say "Sherman's March," or "Roger and Me" are just a little trickier to pull off than their point and shoot style implies. And I heartily recommend that you rent either or both of them instead of seeing "Anthem."

© 1997 • Andrea Chase • Air Date: 8/20/97

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