Fast, Cheap & Out of Control

Do the critics who have lavished praise on Errol Morris’ studiously eccentric documentary have any idea how smug and callow the film is? (Or is it that they’re applauding those very qualities?) Morris, the celebrated director of Gates of Heaven and The Thin Blue Line, weaves together the portraits of four oddball obsessives: a wild-animal trainer, a topiary gardener, a man devoted to the study of naked mole rats, and a scientist who creates primitive, buglike robots. The surface theme of the movie is that the four are fussbudget tinkerers driven to seek the inner life of gadgets, creatures, and fake creatures. The underlying message — and it’s a snide one — is that the men themselves are dehumanized, mere reflections of their anthropomorphic hobbyhorses. The trouble is, it’s the film that insists on seeing them that way. Morris is a master of the condescending detail (we’re invited to snicker at one man’s nerdy bow tie), but apart from the fact that the subjects are framed as geeks, nothing about them is all that strange — or fascinating. (Someone has to study mole rats.) Their status as ”characters” hinges solely on our laughter. C

Fast, Cheap & Out of Control
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