Movie Magazine International

Fast, Cheap, & Out of Control

USA - 1997

Movie Review By Andrea Chase

Errol Morris' documentary, "Fast, Cheap & Out of Control" shows us people who have devoted themselves body and soul to an obsessive pursuit of one thing. Though their obsessions are different in the particular, what links them together is their passion for something that might give the rest of us pause. Obsession may not be a pretty sight, but just try taking your eyes off it.

Morris, who discovered the quirky side of capital crime in "The Thin Blue Line," turns his camera onto four people who've achieved their own unique brand of Nirvana by escaping to worlds of their own making: George Mendonca, who carves animals out of privet hedges; dave Hoover, who doesn't just train wild animals, he psychoanalyzes them; Rodney Brooks, who creates robots, excuse me, silicon-based life forms that, so he claims, exhibit herd behaviour; and Ray Mendez, an expert on the mole-rat, a repulsive rodent with the social life of a termite and which bears an unsettling resemblance to a penis with teeth.

With some, it's easy. The mole-rat expert, is eager to share. Wearing a butterfly bow-tie and a grin not unlike his toothy charges, he's macabre yet chipper in his delight describing how these creatures can chew through cement or a human hand. Then again, how often does he get to share his strange passion? Mendonca, though, is a challenge. He fidgets, visibly uncomfortable, and yet at one point, while describing his approach to topiary art, his guard drops and he breaks into a proud, shy, remarkable smile. Morris underscores these monologues by juxtaposing them with images that compare with contrast one with other, revealing unexpected correspondences.

Errol Morris must have a terrible time on airplanes. There's something about him that makes people want to share the entirety of their inner lives. Fortunately for us, he's used his power to make films that surprise and amuse, like "Fast, Cheap & Out of Control." Few filmmakers can make me laugh out loud the way Morris can. But the reason that these films are not fluff, is that they can also provoke us or even make us uncomfortable with a flash of self-recognition.

© 1997 Andrea Chase Air Date: 10/15/97

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