The word is "schadenfreude" and Dictionary.com succinctly defines it as "pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others." Frankly I'm stunned that we English-speaking folks haven't come up with our own word for it yet, since nobody on the planet loves to mock the unfortunate the way Americans do. (And save me your nasty emails, cuz you know it's true.)
And there sure is a lot of schadenfreude to be found within the documentary film Overnight -- but it's tough to feel guilty for the lead character, since he really does come off as an insufferable schmuck. But I'm getting ahead of the story here...
Troy Duffy was a Boston-based nobody; a guy who loved drinking beers with his buddies and having a raucous good time. In his spare time Mr. Duffy would crank out some tunes with his band (which was then known as "The Brood") and cobble together a fairly intriguing screenplay. His story was called "The Boondock Saints," and the guy's debut screenplay somehow caught the attention of Miramax head honcho Harvey Weinstein. In a display of Hollywood short-sightedness (the kind which we'll never see again), Troy was basically given the keys to the kingdom: Miramax would make Duffy's movie, they'd help get The Brood signed to a record deal, and they'd also buy Duffy's favorite bar for him! The news got a lot of press back when Miramax actually meant something.
But on the way to success and stardom, something ... happened. And Overnight, as directed by former Duffy-pals Mark Brian Smith & Tony Montana, exists to document Duffy's meteoric rise and extra-speedy decline.
But is Mr. Duffy this much of an amazing jerk-off, or did Smith & Montana cobble together a hatchet-job of a documentary because they were (quite justifiably) infuriated with the way they were treated by an "old pal"? I'd say it's probably both -- but the "jerk-off" angle seems considerably more likely.
On one hand, let's face it: I'm a supremely nice guy, but if you had a camera crew following me around for two years, I guarantee you could manage to put together a doco that makes me look like kind of a wanker. On the other hand, there's little denying that what you see of Mr. Duffy throughout the whole of Overnight is pretty telling. Unless Smith & Montana are amazing wizards of special effects and ADR, which they're not, Troy Duffy comes off like a pompous, arrogant, abusive, and shamelessly egotistical bastard for much of the film. (It's at this point I'll admit that I quite enjoy The Boondock Saints; I think the screenplay is darkly witty and pretty exciting, and the direction, particularly from a experience-free newcomer, is pretty darn slick.)
There's a scene that pops up about halfway through Overnight in which Duffy mercilessly chastises Smith & Montana for requesting a fair wage for their work. (They were co-managers of the band and the ones responsible for shooting the documentary, after all.) The raving windbag tells them they're not getting any money ... although they might deserve it. And then he says that they don't deserve it ... and that Smith & Montana are little more than opportunistic hanger-on leech-types. It's at this point where the viewer starts to wonder "...so why did Duffy let them keep shooting?"
And therein lies the real truth of Overnight: Duffy didn't just want to be a successful and a well-admired moviemaker / msucian -- he wanted to be a big fat STAR of the "Tarantino meets Kevin Smith" variety. And he failed miserably, partially due to naivete and lack of experience ... but mainly because he treated everyone around him like a piece of crap. And in the Hollywood game, you have to earn the right to be an abusive jerk. With just a good dose of humility and the admission that he was a newbie, Duffy could still be working today. Fuelled by his own ego, Duffy was under the (astonishingly mistaken) impression that strong-arm tactics and abusive behavior were the way to play this kind of game. Obviously he was wrong.
So while I did enjoy watching Overnight and I do think it's an entertaining slam of a documentary, I can't help but feel a little bit of sympathy for Troy Duffy. Yes, he acted like an insufferable bastard and abused all his loyal pals ... but does the guy deserve to have his name ruined for all eternity just because he didn't know how to "play the game" properly? Yes, Duffy probably got exactly what he deserved when all is said and done (as in: He'll never work in movie-land again!) but how would you like to have your worst moments forever immortalized on film and then distributed to every video store in the country?
Mr. Smith and Mr. Montana have absolutely every right to loathe and detest Troy Duffy for the way he treated his old friends ... but their movie reeks of sour grapes as much as it delivers a cautionary tale on how NOT to deal with sudden success. Those who love "behind-the-scenes" movie docos should have a really good time with Overnight, but it's hard to believe that there's not a lot of back-story that we're not being told.
Video: It's a widescreen (1.85:1) transfer, and the picture quality is precisely what you'd expect from a grass-roots documentary presentation.
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, which delivers the (often shockingly enjoyable) conversations in fine form.
Extras: A pair of deleted scenes, a few cast & crew bios, the original theatrical trailer, and a brief interview segment with the directors from Comcast's CN8 entitled Backstage with Barry Nolan. You'll also find a trailer gallery highlighting a few of ThinkFilm's upcoming releases: Game Over, Born Into Brothels, and Mondovino.
The ultimate irony here is that Overnight began as a project that would showcase Mr. Duffy's talent and good fortune -- and now exists as an eternal testament to the guy's atrocious "people skills" and his resoundingly evident egotism. So while I did have a fun time watching this particular story unfold, I still hope that Duffy's up there in Boston somewhere -- a little older, a lot wiser, and hopefully having a happy life. He might have truly deserved the Hollywood Blacklisting, but it's tough to live down an indictment as thorough as Overnight.
It's not like the guy killed someone!