Review: LIVING IN OBLIVION (R)

Steve Buscemi leading the rest of the crew as they prepare for a shot.

U.S. Release Date: July 21, 1995

Running Time: 90 minutes

MPAA Classification: R (Language, brief sexual content/nudity)

Cast: Steve Buscemi, Catherine Keener, Dermot Mulroney, James LeGros, Peter Dinklage, Kevin Corrigan

Director: Tom DiCillo

Producer: Michael Griffiths, Marcus Viscidi

Screenplay: Tom DiCillo

 

By STEPHEN EARNEST / November 21, 2011

Steve Buscemi has got to be one of the most charismatic actors out there. That’s not an insult, mind you. His characters are always so life-like and well-acted; so much, in fact, that you begin to wonder if they’re actually people that you know or have met before.

In Living in Oblivion, he shines. He plays Nick Reve, an independent film director. Lately, Nick’s been having a frustrating time with his cast. He can’t get anything to go right. The leading lady, Nicole (Catherine Keener), isn’t responding well to her male co-star, the meat-headed Chad Palomino (James LeGros), and the cinematographer Wolf (Dermot Mulroney) is having lady problems.

The main storyline is divided into three segments, all of which are either dreams or reality. We’re never quite sure. Is this intended to be some sort of underlying or hidden meaning? Who knows.

The main gag in Living in Oblivion is that  every time something goes well in a shot, something else goes wrong. Nothing ever goes exactly according to plan, and the thing that goes wrong usually screws up the entire shot. There are countless retakes, with none of them ever leading anywhere. We get a sense that this is what really happens on an independent film set. And who knew that someone else’s troubles could be so damn funny?

The film’s director, Tom DiCillo, won the well-deserved Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at Sundance Festival in ’95. And that’s the best part about Living in Oblivion. The writing is fantastic. It’s wickedly funny and original. Each character is given a decent amount of depth and DiCillo manages to poke fun in the just the right places.

The casting is perfect. Of course, Buscemi is fantastic in his role, but so are LeGros and Mulroney. LeGros is hilarious as the Brad Pitt-like leading man and almost every line out of Mulroney’s mouth could be considered comedic gold. These are performances that typical moviegoers don’t relish has much as they should. They consider a good performance to consist of detail, tears, and nudity. A good comic performance goes overlooked more often than not, and it’s one of the most difficult to perform.

These kinds of films, these low-budget comedies, are always so great. It’s great that they are unknown to the most of the world. Comedy like this comes with a price: you have to search for it, and in the end, it pays off.

RATING: 3.5/4

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