The Business
IFC Films // Unrated // $29.95 // July 17, 2007
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted July 31, 2007
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In 10 Words or Less
Inside the dirty world of independent film

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Mockumentaries, sitcoms, good indy films
Likes: Kathleen Robinson
Dislikes: Inside jokes, artistes
Hates: Missed opportunities

The Story So Far...
IFC turned the camera around and pointed it at itself, in a way, with the miniseries "The Festival," a fictional documentary about director Rufus Marquez, whose film, The Unreasonable Truth About Butterflies, became a festival darling, mainly because people couldn't see it. The end result was a deal with Vic's Flicks, a skin-flick distributor making a grab for credibility, whose story is told in "The Business." IFC released the complete series of "The Festival" through Docurama in January of 2007. DVDTalk has a review here.

The Show
If you didn't watch "The Festival," fear not. It's not required viewing to enjoy the storyline of "The Business," as new to the group is Julia (Kathleen Robertson, Scary Movie 2), an ambitious young screw-up who quits IFC to join up with Vic Morgenstein (Rob deLeeuw), a man who converted to Judaism, at least partially in the hopes it would make him more successful in film, after establishing his business with a series of exploitative videos titled "Drunk Chicks." Julia brings a professional touch to a rag-tag group of filmmakers who would be more likely to produce a turd than a film, each of whom has an obvious quirk and a more obvious ego.

After ending up with a hit on their hands with Butterflies, a hot, new, nearly-talentless star in Lance Rawley (James A. Woods) and an artsy, sensitive director in Rufus, Vic's Flicks sets out to recreate what it found at the film festival with House of Fear. It won't be easy, even with Julia on boards, thanks largely to Vic's ability to sour almost any deal. As a result, they are reliant on Kenji, an insane Japanese financier, who also happens to be Vic's former brother-in-law, and uncle to Beatrice, Vic's daughter, who hangs around the set, observing her dad's business. Kenji puts a lot of conditions on his support for the film, including the casting of porn starlet Scarlett Saint-James (the unfortunately named Karen Cliche) which is a major cause of stress for many involved in the film.

Though much of the plot for the season, which centers around the production of House of Fear, goes by the book if you have any expectations, including the director's mental breakdown, the star's ego trips, the sexual hijinks in the office and the frequent setbacks that delay the film, it's all done well enough to keep your interest, and throw a few curveballs too, mainly in the strange behavior of Kenji. Vic's conversion to Judaism isn't handled well enough to justify the frequent "therapy sessions" with his rabbi, but the supporting cast, including Trevor Hayes, as PR guy and all-around ass Tony, and Matt Silver, as Terrance the intern, do a good job of carrying the weight when needed.

Most of the 22-minute episodes ride on Robertson's shoulders though, and there's not much too worry about because of that. Robertson's a fine comedic actress, as she shows here, playing the straight man when needed, while being silly enough to laugh at and with, without affecting her attractiveness as a lead. The only time the show runs into any real trouble is when the jokes get too inside, speaking to veterans of the indie scene. But then, are those people watching IFC anyway?

Two four-episode DVDs are packed into a standard-width, two-tray keepcase, each with an anamorphic widescreen main menu, offering a play-all option, episode selection, language options and special features (on Disc Two.) The are no audio options, though subtitles are available in English and Spanish. There is no closed captioning.

The Quality
The episodes are presented with letterboxed widescreen transfers, as they were originally on IFC. As the show dropped the faux documentary concept from the "The Festival," the episodes are bright and colorful, with crisp details and a lack of any obvious dirt or damage, and no noticeable digital artifacts.

The audio is delivered in a straightforward Dolby Digital 2.0 track that does what it needs to, without any dynamic mixing, just as it was when first broadcast. Clear dialogue and strong music, with good separation is all you can ask from a basic cable comedy show.

The Extras
First up is a 14:40 gagisode, which is just a fancy word for a gag reel, as the actors break each other up. If you like that kind of thing, this is a fine example. It's followed by a 13-minute featurette on the making of the first season, which was a bit too glossy for my tastes, but is a decent look behind the curtain. Also found on Disc Two are a trailer for season one and a preview of season two, which feels like it might give a bit too much away.

The Bottom Line
If you have ever read Variety, Spike, Mike, Slackers and Dykes or Easy Riders, Raging Bulls there's a good chance you'll enjoy "The Business." If you haven't, you still could possibly get into it, as there's enough standard sitcom comedy in here to balance out the industry gags and Robertson is an extremely likable star. Your mileage will vary depending on how much you like the movie industry. The DVDs are very nice in recreating the TV experience, while the few bonus features are interesting enough for those who enjoy the series. With another season soon to start on IFC, here's your chance to catch up with this breezy little treat.

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