A scene from 'The Independent'
Courtesy Photo
**1/2 stars 85 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Friday, April 19, 2002
Directed by Stephen Kessler

Starring Jerry Stiller, Janeane Garofalo, Max Perlich, Ted Demme, Roger Corman, Ron Howard, Karen Black, Peter Bogdanovich, Fred Williamson, Nick Cassavetes, Julie Strain, Ethan Embry, Phil Proctor, Anne Meara, Victoria Silvstedt, Lisa McCullough, Dana Gould, Rob Ingersoll, Jonathan Katz, Billy Burke, Andy Dick, Ben Stiller, John Lydon, Ginger Lynn Allen, Fred Dryer, Bob Odenkirk


A seat-of-the-pants low-budget flick, the filmmakers probably thought this thing would go straight to video anyway, so I think it will play just fine on the small screen.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 09.30.2003


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'Non-fiction' comedy 'The Independent' has fun fudging facts for the history of a fake B-movie king

By Rob Blackwelder

Remember that great Z-grade 1969 protest picture "Brothers Divided," about the conjoined twins drafted to serve in Vietnam?

No? How about the blaxploitation classics "Venus De Mofo" and "The Foxy Chocolate Robot?" Or the tree-hugging girlie biker flick "The Eco-Angels"? Or the midget Gidget movie "Teenie Weenie Bikini Beach"?

Those don't ring a bell? Surely you've seen at least one of the 427 movies directed by schlock filmmaker Morty Fineman over the last 38 years, right?

Or maybe not, since he's actually just the invention of Stephen Kessler, co-writer and director of the amusingly deadpan mock documentary "The Independent." A giddy goof on the seedier side of Hollywood, the picture pays homage to the career of the (fictitiously) infamous and prolific, but entirely ungifted filmmaker who genuinely believes his no-budget T&A flicks are masterpieces of socially relevant cinema.

Starring Jerry Stiller (Ben's dad in real life and George Costanza's dad on "Seinfeld") in all his hollering-hubbub glory, this is basically a one-joke movie, but it's surprising how far Kessler can stretch the laughs.

Interviews are featured with Hollywood bigshots (Ron Howard, Ted Demme, Peter Bogdanovich and real-life schlockster Roger Corman, among others) talking about how Morty has inspired them. "Clips" from Morty's hilariously bad movies are highlighted. And for plot, "The Independent" follows the downward spiral of Fineman Films as the company goes bankrupt in the wake of an over-ambitious bomb -- the $30 million Costner-esque epic "The Whole Story of America," written by, directed by and starring Morty.

Janeane Garofalo is perfectly cast as Paloma, Morty's wry, dry cynical daughter who, under duress from her pest of a pop, becomes "president" of Fineman Films and tries to land new suckers -- backers! I mean backers! -- to pull them out of their freefall. In the mean time, the company has been evicted from its office and has set up shop in a cheap motel room while Morty pursues his latest dream of making a musical about a convicted serial killer.

Meanwhile Paloma cuts a deal with a film festival to feature a retrospective of Morty's films. Of course, it's a first-year film festival in a remote Arizona town desperate for cash flow now that the nearby nuclear test site has closed down.

Kessler directs "The Independent" with the kind of comedic counterfeit sincerity that is now standard mockumentary procedure, and while the film is reliably funny, it's largely forgettable. "Spinal Tap," this ain't.

If you're a tongue-in-cheek fan of bimbo-driven B-movies, "The Independent" should tickle your funny bone. But if you're a fan of these movies, you're also used to seeing them on video or Cinemax, and it won't be long before this picture will join them there. In other words, you might as well wait.


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