Confessions of a Superhero
2007, R, 92 min. Directed by Matt Ogens.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Nov. 2, 2007
What does Superman do when he's not posing for snapshots with Hollywood Boulevard tourists in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre? Turns out he smokes like a chimney, guzzles milk by the gallon, and hustles to make ends meet in what's got to be one of the toughest gigs in Los Angeles. Kal-El he's not – the "he" I'm referring to is Christopher Lloyd Dennis (son of Oscar-winning Sandy Dennis), one of four street actors profiled in Ogens' fine, bittersweet, and hopelessly ingratiating documentary. It's also a surrealistic tour de farce: Where else are you going to catch a glimpse of Superman and Ghost Rider strolling down the street while debating the pros and cons of lighting up on the job. (Ghost Rider: "I can smoke. I'm on fire!") Dennis' slim build makes for an oddly scrawny Man of Steel, but Maxwell Allen (Batman), a dead ringer for George Clooney after a long night, is convincing enough despite – or possibly because of – his occasional flashes of temper. Jennifer Gehrt's Wonder Woman explains the fame-fueled, relentlessly optimistic motivation behind almost all of the performers here when she casually remarks, "Sure, a doctor saves lives, but is he remembered?" Hollywood has always fed on the fear of failure, of personal or professional oblivion, at least as much as the dream of stardom and the possibility of a cinematic seat among the elect, the chosen, the immortals. And it's here, in this strange purgatory between the daily grind of working solely for tips from (often) skinflint tourists while somehow managing the truly superhuman feat of keeping relatively sane in the midst of all this unreality, that Confessions of a Superhero really soars. Who knew the Hulk's alter ego (Joe McQueen, a diminutive black man inside that beefy DayGlo-green getup) had spent years homeless? Certainly the tourists never stop to ask. Often the parallels between these never-say-die, perpetually struggling actors and the characters they inhabit are almost too close for comfort, as when "Maximus Batman" Allen's wife mentions his short fuse and roughshod past. You wonder just how difficult it must be, at the end of the day, to hang up the mask and be if not Bruce Wayne then at least flesh and blood, no more impervious to the life's two-bit cruelties than Harvey Pekar. SXSW Film Presents Ends Tuesday.