The Definition of Insanity

"Good"

The Definition of Insanity Review


Robert Margolis is a struggling actor... playing a struggling actor named Robert Margolis. Both Margolises have appeared in indie films Criminals and Morocco, may (or may not) be married, and possibly possess a self-destructive need to act. This is the concept -- and slight conceit -- behind Margolis' The Definition of Insanity, a fake digital video documentary following one man's ascension to nowhere.

Don't think "mockumentary" here. Margolis and co-director Frank Matter aren't satirizing the verité form, nor are they making light of the film's subject matter. Instead, they convey Margolis' mad desire to succeed with an agreeable mix of broad humor and pathos. So a scene in which our hero takes a job distributing flyers for "Animal Farm: The Musical" is followed closely by an argument as to whether he and his wife can afford to buy her a much-needed pair of boots.

It's that combination of hopeless optimism and sheer desperation that make Margolis (both the actor and the character) more appealing than a short summary can illustrate. Initially, the guy presents the classic cliché, telling a newbie actor that you have to be addicted to acting in order to make it.

But when he lives up to that expectation -- auditioning like crazy, camping out at an agent's office, borrowing money to make the rent -- it's hard not to admire his determination. Even more appealing is when Margolis tells the camera he's not into making it big. He just wants to work.

So where does the real life end and the fictional stuff take over? Hard to tell, but the curiosity is thankfully not used as a crutch, as it's not valuable enough to sustain a feature-length film. As The Definition of Insanity heads toward a sharper mix of chuckles and sadness, and less believability, we know that Margolis and Matter's creative sides are in charge, using Margolis' true existence as a loose blueprint.

The act of making a pseudo-documentary about yourself -- even a fictional one -- does carry the immediate risk of appearing self-serving. That's true here, even despite Margolis's desperate charm. And considering that, for decades, students everywhere have been making films about not being able to make films, the overall concept pales a bit.

So, then, how much is Margolis actually acting? Or, is he just acting like a guy named Robert Margolis who happens to be a lot like him? Kelli Barnett, not Margolis's wife (I don't think) but playing her, makes a fine contribution as the only person who really knows him and the person most hurt by his actions.

The Definition of Insanity probably won't jump-start Robert Margolis' acting career, but it might get him closer to that status of working actor, just as he wished for in the film. So while the realities merge, here's something to consider: According to the film's press material, Margolis and Matter have successfully entered the film in 21 film festivals from Woodstock to South Korea, winning numerous awards. Now that's the kind of persistence Robert Margolis the film character can identify with.



The Definition of Insanity

Facts and Figures

Run time: 85 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 10th December 2005

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

IMDB: 7.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Robert Margolis, Frank Matter

Producer: Robert Margolis, Frank Matter

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