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Saturday, 23 June 2018

Retro Review: Live! (2007)

Cast: Eva Mendes, David Krumholtz, Rob Brown, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jay Hernandez, Missi Pyle, Andre Braugher
Genre: Drama

Plot: A mockumentary following an ambitious TV network executive trying to produce a controversial reality show where contestants play Russian Roulette 

'''Live!'' Couldn't Quite Come To Life

A satirical look at the reality TV & rating- hungry bosses in suits, Live! sees a highly ambitious -yet ruthless TV executive, Katy attempting to create and showcase a new reality TV show, where six strangers play a game of Russian Roulette with six revolvers loaded, but only one of them contains a live round as they compete for the $5 million prize. Which is messed up and crazy, but hey, that is the nature of this business. 

Eva Mendes gives an uncharacteristic performance onscreen as the gritty Katy, which she hasn't really delivered in the majority of her Hollywood commercial efforts. It shows how good an actress she can be, but at the same time, the script isn't as meaty and & yet sadly she hasn't had more of the opportunities, where she lets her acting shine. 

Jeffrey Dean Morgan is farmer, Rick, a God-fearing Midwesterner, who risks losing his family's farm and he is one of the contestants on the show, alongside a young writer in Rob Brown (Finding Forrester, Take The Lead), Jay Rodriguez as a second generation gay immigrant, a sports guy and a young actress. I actually found their interview segments more enjoyable than the most of the individual scenes of Mendes; with the first half being bland and whilst this set-up is necessary to make strides in the film, it just wasn't interesting and when it got to the actual game show segment, that was when Live! became watchable. Additionally, Bringing Down The House's Missi Pye is in this one as well and she plays the TV news reporter. The performances, overall, were all right but it needed to be backed up by a more concrete script. 

It tries to examine not only the competitive and cutthroat side of reality television but also the behind-the-scenes look that this genre of programming, rarely airs live, as everyone is embroiled in a fierce ratings battle where success comes at a heavy price and whereby people's livelihoods are at stake. Just how far can we go to entertain ourselves and become stars? If only it had a bit more substance going for it. 

Live! is a mockumentary movie that deserves the mainstream treatment for it to be made a tad accessible; because as an indie hit, it feels it's not as loose and engaging as it should be. It also lacks clarity, sharpness and doesn't truly dig deep enough to make the reality TV theme resonate with general audiences. Even if the statement it intends to send out is true, the lengths in which the film goes to, to extract that never came to fruition. By shooting the film as a documentary and focusing on it mostly on Katy, it should have been a satirical movie and it was centred on not just herself, but also the other contestants and that equal screen-time were given to each of them.

Final Verdict:

Live! will interest fans and people who enjoy mockumentaries, but besides that, being a documentary means the characters have to lend themselves in a way they do not come across as being too corny for us to buy into them.

At least one thing I could give it credit for is that it shows that reality TV is/may not be the best form of entertainment. But for the game show part, it just wasn't compelling all the way through when it should have mattered. If this had been a commercial Hollywood film in the vein of EdTV with a more engrossing and entertaining script, this would have been a better route for Live! to head towards. 

But alas, Live! chickens out on the show's consequences and doesn't delve into its repercussions, beyond that of the climax towards the end, rendering it a bit of a missed opportunity as a film. It's a case where a good premise is washed out by its uneven approach. 


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