The F Word (2006)
"500,000 people on the streets of New York has to mean something."- Joe Pace (Josh Hamilton)
Stars: Josh Hamilton, Sam Rockwell, Callie Thorne, Edoardo Ballerini, Zak Orth
Director: Jed Weintrob
MPAA Rating: Not RatedRun Time: 01h:16m:39s
Release Date: 2008-10-21
DVD ReviewIf one were to review a movie for its political content, or for the doggedness of its filmmakers working on a low budget, The F Word would get high marks all around. The problem with it as a feature, though, is not that it isn't entertaining—it's certainly amiable enough—rather, it's that it seems like a textbook example of preaching to the choir. Even the DVD packaging is kind of a giveaway on this point, featuring a pull quote from IFC News on this disc distributed by IFC. You sense that there's some logrolling going on here, and that the audience for this is self-selecting and, more than likely, more than a little bit smug.
Here's the conceit of the piece: Josh Hamilton plays Joe Pace, a progressive talk radio host on a station about to sell out—it's KPOL's last day on the air, apparently because someone on the radio got all potty mouthed and incurred the wrath of the Bush Administration's FCC. This day in August 2004 also happens to be the last day of the Republican National Convention, which was held in New York City—rather than sulk in the studio and do a best-of-Joe farewell show, our hero takes to the streets with his remote microphone. The radio show and the film follow his journey uptown, into the Republican heart of darkness—the whole things is like Medium Cool lite, blending documentary footage with a wacky cast of character that Joe meets on the way.
What's particularly notable is how just four years out the politics of the film already seem antiquated—it's almost as if everyone in the film doesn't know how to channel their frustrations, and are standing around waiting for Barack Obama to happen. The film captures some of the unique atmosphere of the time—outrage at the Bush Administration, not only for the war in Iraq but, more acutely, for packaging the 9/11 attacks for partisan political advantage; a chance to rekindle some of the spirit of protest of the 1960s, and, not incidentally for Joe and the guys he meets on his trek, to hang outside on a hot summer day and hit on lots of cute girls. Joe gets occasional sidekicks—one is a woman that he's hitting on; another is a Republican, who may be as reviled for his politics on the streets of New York as he is for his Red Sox cap. There are cameos from overly aggressive, even thuggish members of the NYPD, and clips of Mayor Mike whitewashing over it all—part of the premise of the film is that the protest was huge, and that the cops were out of hand, and that the media didn't report on any of it.
Joe of course makes it to the protests outside of Madison Square Garden, but the movie kind of runs out of gas once he does—the villain of the film is supposed to be President Bush, but he doesn't do his part dramaturgically, appearing only in the whiz of a Secret Service motorcade. And then the film, even at only 77 minutes long, runs out of gas, subjecting us to musical interludes and dream sequences. There are a couple of familiar faces along the way—Callie Thorne appears as a grade school friend of Joe's, now working as a stripper, and with all the Republicans in town, it's like Christmas for her; Sam Rockwell is a particularly daffy observer of the scene. But even if you're sympathetic to the film's politics, there's not much here on which you can hang your hat.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-
|Aspect Ratio||1.78:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The high-end video looks pretty contrasty here, as you might anticipate; it's certainly par for the course, and adequate for a film made on a shoestring budget.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: It sounds a little overmixed; ambient noise is a problem throughout.
Audio Transfer Grade: C
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
9 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Jed Weintrob, actor Josh Hamilton, producer Christian D. Bruun, producer Nick Goldfarb, director of photography Heather Greer, assistant editor Rosie Nakamura
Extras Review: The gang's all here for the commentary track, which offers lots of lessons in passionate, low-budget filmmaking. There are occasionally numbing passages about details from the shoot, but you've got to appreciate all of the filmmakers channeling their free-floating anger into this project, and arming themselves with video cameras and Macs. Nine deleted scenes are all brief anecdotes that didn't make the final cut—you may not agree with his politics, but the biggest jolt of authenticity comes when Joe interviews a real, live delegate to the Republican National Convention. The commentary extends to these scenes as well, mostly reminiscences and reasons as to why they're not in the feature.
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsA politically heartfelt and cannily made low-budget picture, but one that overstays its welcome a little bit, and doesn't really challenge anyone's preconceptions.
Jon Danziger 2008-11-03