At first glance, "Pittsburgh" seems like yet another clone of Christopher Guest's mockumentary films. As it turns out, "Pittsburgh" is not a full-blown mockumentary. Instead, the movie is part doucmentary and part mockumentary. As promising of an idea as that may be, the resulting film is sadly somewhat mixed.
The story- In order for Jeff Goldblum's fiancee Catherine to receive a green card, she needs to be working. Catherine, who is interested in musical theatre, manages to line up a role in "The Music Man" in Pittsburgh. In a shocking move, Goldblum goes against his Manager's wishes and decides to give up a role in a Michael Bay film to join Catherine on stage. The question is can Goldblum pull off his stage performance or will he ruin his career?
"Pittsburgh" is an ambitious film in that the story blends both fact and fiction. At the same time, this approach winds up hurting the film. While the story raises intriguing insights into a high-pressure/expectation filled actor's life, the story goes off on weird tangents and is often unfocused. The story works best when it centers on Goldblum's romance with Catherine or how he is trying to step out of the norm and not let his manager run his life. When we get obviously staged scenes like Begley's obsession with his invention, the film stumbles into useless subplots that could have easily been scrapped. It's also hard to tell at times when the actors are being truthful or putting on act. It's frustrating more than anything as it puts a barrier between the film and the viewers. Viewers will feel as if their emotions are being toyed with because they can't tell if they are watching an entertaining show or real life.
In addition, the movie seems to be missing something that I can't quite put my finger on. I think perhaps the film could have used more depth in its exploration of an actor risking his career. It would have added more tension and character conflict without taking away from the documentary/mockumentary gimmick.
The cast is most impressive. The eccentric Jeff Goldblum has always been somewhat underrated (even though he has starred in hits like "Jurassic Park" and "The Big Chill"), so it's nice to see him get a starring vehicle. Here, Goldblum is in top form as we get to see him sing and dance in the musical "The Music Man." If that sounds bizarre, it is. There's nothing quite like seeing a peculiar tall gawky man (who looks completely out of place) belting out show tunes. The rest of the cast like Ed Begley, Jr. and Illeana Douglas are notable, but the real crowd-pleaser was surprisingly Moby. Who knew Moby could be so funny? His slimey discussions about sex and porn were so unexpected coming from him, which is why it was so funny. Note: The film also includes cameos from the likes of Alanis Morissette, Ashley Judd, and Conan O'Brien.
The 1.78:1 widescreen is a little fuzzy, but this is typical for most films shot on digital video. Aside from that, the video quality falls somewhere in the middle. It's not HD quality, and it's not going to ruin your eyes.
The stereo track is acceptable enough, although it would have been nice
to have clearer audio when Goldblum is singing on stage.
1. Trailers for "Pittsburgh," "Midnight Movies," "Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride," and "New Orleans Music In Exile" (which I reviewed).
2. 14 bonus scenes with optional commentary by directors Chris Bradley and Kyle LaBrache. The highlights include Ed Begley at a John Kerry speech, Jeff running into Scott Caan and Claire Forlani, and my personal favorite- Bob Odenkirk being a jackass while talking to Jeff and Catherine. Why this scene isn't in the movie is beyond me. It's one of the few scenes that elicit hearty laughter.
3. A solid commentary track with directors Chris Bradley and Kyle LeBrache who give viewers some clues as to what is real (Catherine being engaged to Jeff) and what is not (Moby dating Illeana). The two also discuss how they would surprise actors with props (the blue prints) and scenarios. I also found it amusing how the two directors didn't even know if certain things (like Jeff crying) were real or an act.
"Pittsburgh" is watchable and contains some thoughtful insights, but the film doesn't quite add up to much when it's all over and done with. I can recommend a rental, but just barely.
Film and television enthusiast Nick Lyons recently had his first book published titled "Attack of the Sci-Fi Trivia." It is available on Amazon.com.