I'm Reed Fish
2007, PG, 93 min. Directed by Zackary Adler. Starring Jay Baruchel, Alexis Bledel, Schuyler Fisk, Victor Rasuk, DJ Qualls, A.J. Cook, Katey Sagal, Chris Parnell.
REVIEWED By Toddy Burton, Fri., June 8, 2007
The ultimate indie self-indulgence, I’m Reed Fish is so weighed down in its own angst as to practically deserve its own genre. With a screenplay by Reed Fish, the film follows the coming-of-age tale of (that’s right) Reed Fish. Reed (the appealing Baruchel, currently in theatres with Knocked Up) is a little boy lost. Orphaned when his father fell asleep while driving (an accident that killed Reed’s mother and her best friend as well), the boyish twentysomething has taken over his father’s small-town radio show. The town, a vague piney retreat by the name of Mud Meadows is quirky in that quaint way that exists only in the movies. Imagine Northern Exposure a lot less interesting. The whole town revolves around the radio show, and Reed lives in his late father’s shadow as he reports on overgrown hedges and missing stop signs. Engaged to Kate (Bledel), the daughter of his late mother’s late best friend, Reed wanders through a charming little life full of quirky banter with various town residents, including the astrologically inclined mayor (Sagal), a cashier-cum-karate expert (Qualls), and a depressive bartender (Parnell). All’s well until an old high school friend, Jill (Fisk), returns from a stint at the University of Texas at Austin (an odd familiar detail amidst a sea of ambiguity) to “figure out her life.” But things are never so simple. Though occasional moments evoke a smile, and there’s maybe one dramatic scene that’s handled deftly, the spiraling self-reflection rapidly overwhelms the film. Using juvenile storytelling techniques, the movie rapidly disintegrates into a cheesy mess. About 20 minutes in, the sound goes out and the camera pulls back. Suddenly we’re in a theatre and the projector has gotten stuck. In the audience is everyone who’s in the film. We realize that what we’re watching is a movie that Reed is making about his life. Starring himself and everyone he knows. And this, mind you, all within the context of the actual movie that’s being written by the actual Reed Fish. Exhausted yet? You will be. I’m reminded of Tears and Laughter: The Joan and Melissa Rivers Story with Joan and Melissa Rivers playing themselves. A mistake then and a mistake now. As the “movie” begins again, it’s unclear if one should get reinvolved in anticipation of another narrative interruption. Perhaps in more experienced hands, this self-reflection could achieve insight, but as director Adler’s first feature and Fish’s first produced screenplay, this mess was better left inside the writer’s head.