"The Independent", directed by Stephen Kessler, offers a naked, if not drafty, profile of one of Hollywood’s most prolific filmmakers. Move over Scorsese and Kubrick, make room for a legend that is only just receiving his due diligence after 30 years in the film business. Director Morty Fineman has always welcomed both the serious film connoisseur and the wayward adolescent to his creations.
Of the 427 films Fineman has crafted over the years, how can one possibly name a favorite? Certainly "Foxy Chocolate Robot" (1976) had its moments, so did "Abra Cadaver" (1977) but then along comes "Christ For the Defense" (1984) when Jesus returns to Earth as a lawyer and then whaddya do? You go and rent "The Man With Two Things", that's what you do.
A little known fact that comes out in "The Independent" was that Morty Fineman began the now-common practice of using Roman numerals after sequels following his smash hit "World War III II" in 1973.
Truth be told, which I am mighty reluctant to do in this case, "The Independent" is a Spinal Tap-esque mockumentary on the B-movie industry written by Stephen Kessler and Mike Wilkins. Not quite reaching the depths of the notorious, Ed Wood, Morty Fineman, played by -- no -- inhabited by Jerry Stiller, is much-loved by his fans, most of whom are bald, thanks to his 1973 classic "Bald Justice".
"The Independent" includes interview with Academy Award-winning director, Ron Howard, who confesses to a life-long admiration of Morty's work and exposes his chrome dome to prove it. Appearances by other artists in the industry include Ted Demme, Roger Corman, Karen Black, Peter Bogdonavich, Fred Williamson and Nick Cassavetes.
Janeane Garofolo is Paloma Fineman, Morty's estranged daughter, who comes to his rescue when Fineman Films is threatened with bankruptcy. Paloma loves her father but let's face it, the woman is a product of Hollywood parenting and is addicted to fake tanning cream and fat-free food products.
All jokity-jokes aside, without a doubt, the best thing about "The Independent" is seeing Stiller & Meara together again. Stiller's wife, Anne Meara, plays Rita, Morty's ex-wife, who got the Rolls Royce in the divorce. In fact, she lives in it full-time with a very loyal chauffeur named Jean Claude, played by Fred Dryer. There is a scene -- in the back of the Rolls, of course, -- where Morty comes to Rita just to talk. I never get tired of seeing those two together.
I hate to pushy here but this film cannot be overlooked! When the credits roll, stay and read. You will not be disappointed.
© 2002 - Heather Clisby - Air Date: 4/17/02