Studio: Dimension Films
Director: Sarah Kelly
Writer: Sarah Kelly
Producer: Rana Joy Glickman
Stars: Lawrence Bender, George Clooney, Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino
A documentary camera goes behind the scenes as Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino film “From Dusk Till Dawn.”
Behind-the-scenes documentaries about moviemaking nigh universally focus on directors, actors, and any other marquee names that might be associated first with a motion picture. “Full Tilt Boogie” may be the only behind-the-scenes doc that journeys below the line to depict the bottom rungs, forgotten grunts, and unsung heroes who make movies happen. It also shows perhaps why more movies opt to not go this route. While those other docs lean towards either gladhanding flattery or genuine insight, “Full Tilt Boogie” treads a line that is neither. Instead, the movie wanders an aimless path of rambling vignettes that make a film set seem like a frat house.
As someone who spent several years in low-budget independent Hollywood working positions that included grip, electrician, and camera assistant, I can appreciate seeing these often overlooked disciplines getting their due on camera. What I cannot gather is what anyone is supposed to walk away with in terms of understanding these positions or these particular people.
“Full Tilt Boogie” won’t teach anyone anything about how movies are made. More specifically, it won’t teach anyone anything about how “From Dusk Till Dawn” (review here) was made. At best, there may be something to learn about the people who made it, if discovering the chip brands populating the craft services table counts as a captivating revelation.
I had always assumed there existed personal assistants whose tasks included fetching coffee for their bosses. I would have been fine continuing with that assumption before “Full Tilt Boogie” felt the need to show it actually happening. Among the other uninteresting curtain peeks provided by the film are spitball fights, Jacuzzi jibber-jabber, and whispers of on-set crushes that mean nothing to an audience who doesn’t know these crewmembers personally. “From Dusk Till Dawn” director Robert Rodriguez appears bored with his own production, playing guitar between takes as though unfocused and spitting out film speed numbers as if his decisions are arbitrary.
What star power the movie does offer is just as shallow. George Clooney’s major contributions involve gifting gag middle finger props to a co-star and wearing a disinterested expression of “lucky me” when a drunk fan professes her willingness to marry him. Harvey Keitel serves up stream of consciousness thoughts on the craft of acting like: “In between all of that, there is my existence. And it’s that existence, and the acceptance of that existence, that mystery that we call moment to moment on the stage, where you do not know what’s going to happen in the next moment, what your thought is going to be, whether it’ll be about God, your mother, your daughter, what you had for breakfast, who you are in this universe, the whole mystery of being here, how did that get to be here?” Huh?
Documentaries that resonate tell a story or express a point of view. “Full Tilt Boogie” gets by with neither until a tunnel light appears partway through in the form of a strike rumor threatening to derail the non-union shoot. Director Sarah Kelly smartly digs into this thread, but only just past the surface, and ends up with her own brief Michael Moore moments of open palms lunging towards the lens. The labor clash storyline ends up wilting quickly though, and the film returns to its depiction of a film set being the most disorganized and unproductive office without walls anyone has ever worked in.
There is some small appeal in seeing filmmakers and crewpersons behaving like the regular people they really are when they are not mugging glamorously for a camera. At the same time, “Full Tilt Boogie” does a disservice to some of these people by reducing an eight week film shoot to disjointed scenes of beer drinking, best butt competitions, and discussions about how much the chicken sandwiches sucked at lunch.
If you want to see what real effort goes into bringing a film project to the screen, check out any other behind-the-scenes feature except this one. If you want to see how making a movie can be just as mundane an experience as any average 9-to-5 job, then “Full Tilt Boogie” provides an alternative to those other documentaries that are only interested in informative value and compelling content.
Review Score: 50