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This Nicer Boy’s Life

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The first-person documentary Guest of Cindy Sherman has its uses. We can point to it and say, “These are the narcissistic depths to which the solo-performance genre can lead us. We must be more vigilant.” The co-director-narrator-protagonist is Paul H-O ( Paul Hasegawa-Overacker), who hosted a celebrity-worshipping public-access show on the art world in the nineties, and who somehow fell into a relationship with that alluring feminist enigma Cindy Sherman. Living a life of unaccustomed luxury with no evident talent and no source of income, H-O nonetheless begins to resent being treated like some nameless trophy wife—and he’s right to the extent that he’s no trophy. The early part of the film, with its focus on the nexus between art and celebrity, is engaging in its fly-on-the-canvas way, and it’s unlikely we’ll ever again see the camera-shy (except toward her own camera) Sherman at work. But the documentary has its roots in a monologue in which the “guest of Cindy Sherman” (what H-O’s place-card read at a gala) stood up for his personhood and made himself the center of the story—only there’s no story, not even insight into what made this unlikely couple click. Remove the boldface names and there’s no movie; that center does not hold.

Adventureland
Directed by Greg Mottola.
Miramax Films. R.

Paris 36
Directed by Christophe Barratier.
Sony Pictures Classics. PG-13.

Guest of Cindy Sherman
Directed by Tom Donahue and Paul H-O.
Trela Media. NR.

E-mail: filmcritic@newyorkmag.com.


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