Authors Anonymous didn’t have any laughs in it for me, but I believe that’s because I couldn’t relate to it.
The mockumentary about five writers who gather to critique their works-in-progress hopes to derive humour from these eccentric personalities. One author is desperate for attention, one is the “ideas guy”, another likes to remind others of his future success while another writer can’t name a single author. There’s a young slacker who lacks required initiative, and the final knowledgable member has the determination to write, but can’t get over his writer’s block.
The small cast does what they can with the material given and with the limited direction by Ellie Kanner. In addition, audiences won’t be put off by the appropriately exaggerated acting; although the number of Teri Polo’s selfish tizzies and scenes featuring Dennis Farina constantly barking his name will have movie goers feeling testy.
However, this doesn’t put a stop to the comedic blockade audiences will either hit or penetrate through. This being that if you haven’t been involved in the competitive world of this artistic craft, you’ll have a hard time finding anything to laugh at. Even as a writer myself, I couldn’t connect with any of these characters because my type of writing differs from that of fictitious storytelling.
Even though I’m not happy that Authors Anonymous didn’t manage to deliver on comedy, I can at least comprehend that there’s a small group of writers who may find Kanner’s film spot-on, humorous and perhaps a bit cathartic. This movie is for a very thin, select audience and – I guess – that’s fine. It is what it is.
However, Authors Anonymous doesn’t get away with everything. The film really started to bother me when it couldn’t stay consistent.
For instance, Kanner can’t stay faithful to the mockumentary format. A scene will be a two camera set-up with characters directing lines towards a cameraman. But, when Kanner cuts around the scene, we don’t see cameras where the characters were looking. It doesn’t make sense.
As far as the jokes go, Authors Anonymous often changes face abruptly. At around the middle point, Kanner’s film takes on a less cutesy shape and becomes something more tragic. The dimmest of the group gains fame for her shallow work and the rest try their hardest to bite their lips and not become jealous. If Kanner wasn’t trying to make each character as pathetic as possible, she could’ve had something smart to say about the business itself.
The ghost of Waiting for Guffman feels as if its haunting this miserable story, but the schmucks in Authors Anonymous are never horrible enough to deserve such cold comeuppance. It all feels too harsh to find funny and the sudden shift makes it hard for viewers to easily take the film as a dark comedy.
In order to get through the film though, one has to realize that this mean approach is here to stay. As soon as the audience accepts that, screenwriter David Congalton flips the tone again with an obligatory squeaky clean ending that’s way too soft. It’s almost as if Congalton was told to make people happy or else the movie wouldn’t get made.
Authors Anonymous plays like a first draft that needs more tightening and tweaking. Kanner and Congalton can’t commit to a style or an approach. The film hangs on by its fingertips to the satire that lies within these two-dimensional characters that’ll only speak to a tightknit group of movie goers. However, when the film narrows its audience target right up until the final scenes, it’s difficult to really say who will be enjoying Authors Anonymous all the way through.