Stephen Tobolowsky's Birthday Party

"Excellent"

Stephen Tobolowsky's Birthday Party Review


A casual search on filmcritic.com reveals the name "Tobolowsky" affiliated with at least 15 movies we've reviewed, and that's just counting the ones he had a big enough role to merit mention in the cast list.

Make this 16.

Robert Brinkman, a long-time cinematographer, brings us a quirky documentary about a man whose name you may not know but whose face you certainly do. ("Ned! Ryerson!" Groundhog Day? Now you have a mental picture.)

The film is 98 percent consumed with Tobolowsky talking about himself, presumably at the urging of Brinkman, who opens the film by announcing that he finds his old friend so fascinating he just had to make this film.

And sure enough, it is. Tobolowsky offers a running commentary on his life, a story which includes everything we could possibly want to know about kidney stones, dolphins, doing drugs, "being cool," being held hostage at gunpoint in a grocery store, and, of course, the Hollywood scene. They're all surprisingly, shockingly, enthralling: His tale of being eaten by animatronic "piranhas" in Bird on a Wire alone is enough to really make me want to see the film again.

And yes, there's a birthday party. These monologues are delivered first while Tobolowsky is seen barbecuing sausages, then sitting in his living room surrounded by friends, then outside. His pals just stare and nod and laugh when they're supposed to. That's the one false move in the film: Its editing is strangely choppy, giving the impression that any time someone else in the room might have made a comment, Brinkman edited it out. It's just one Tobolowsky story jerkily jumping into another one. A handful of outtakes are offered between tales, mostly old friends and relatives offering a brief comment about how great Stephen is. Then it's right back to more Tobolowskyvision.

Imagine My Dinner with Andre without Wallace Shawn and you've got a pretty good idea what Stephen Tobolowsky's Birthday Party is like. But remember how important Shawn was as the foil to Andre Gregory's stories and you'll know how much more promise the film could have delivered on.

Give it a whirl. You won't see anything else like it this year.



Stephen Tobolowsky's Birthday Party

Facts and Figures

Run time: 87 mins

In Theaters: Tuesday 30th May 2006

Distributed by: The Brinkman Company

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Fresh: 12

IMDB: 7.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Robert Brinkmann

Producer: Robert Brinkmann

Starring: as Himself, Ann Hearn as Herself, as Herself, as Herself

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

This may not be the cheeriest movie of the season, but it's so skilfully written,...

Live By Night Movie Review

Live By Night Movie Review

Ben Affleck launched his directing career 10 years ago with his film of Dennis Lehane's...

La La Land Movie Review

La La Land Movie Review

After storming awards season with Whiplash two years ago, writer-director Damien Chazelle returns with something...

Assassin's Creed Movie Review

Assassin's Creed Movie Review

Hopes were high that this film might finally crack the curse of movies based on...

Silence Movie Review

Silence Movie Review

Faith is a topic Martin Scorsese can't quite shake, courting controversy with complex films like...

A Monster Calls Movie Review

A Monster Calls Movie Review

A difficult movie to market, this isn't actually the BFG-style fantasy adventure it looks like....

Monster Trucks Movie Review

Monster Trucks Movie Review

Word has it that a 4-year-old came up with the idea for this unapologetically silly...

Advertisement
Collateral Beauty Movie Review

Collateral Beauty Movie Review

Dramas exploring the nature of death and the true meaning of life are always in...

Paterson Movie Review

Paterson Movie Review

Unpredictable filmmaker Jim Jarmusch ricochets from his artful vampire movie Only Lovers Left Alive into...

I, Daniel Blake Movie Review

I, Daniel Blake Movie Review

At 80 years old, British filmmaker Ken Loach won his second Cannes Film Festival with...

Why Him? Movie Review

Why Him? Movie Review

Writer-director John Hamburg continues to recycle the formula that made his first hit Meet the...

Passengers Movie Review

Passengers Movie Review

Anchored by the almost ridiculously engaging Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, this sci-fi movie travels...

Neruda Movie Review

Neruda Movie Review

Clever Chilean director Pablo Larrain (who also directed Natalie Portman's Jackie) takes on the Nobel-winning...

The Eagle Huntress Movie Review

The Eagle Huntress Movie Review

Narrated by Daisy Ridley (The Force Awakens), this documentary is one of the most gripping...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.