The truth Morgan White’s doc The Rep holds is sad, but true. That constant dreaming of wanting to have access to a vintage movie house that screens older films is always apparent among film buffs and equally eager film buffs disguised as business men are wanting to bring that once-in-a-lifetime experience to an audience. It’s unfortunate that the process of getting a rep cinema off the ground and turning it into a grand success with a consistent flow of customers hardly comes to fruition. But, in a world of VOD viewing, can we blame anyone for not wanting to take this chance more often?
White’s doc will be a tough watch for those who love movie going and love drinking in older culture through niche theatres and collective movie watching. It’s pretty much a documentary equivalent to subjecting Star Wars fans to 90-minutes of dismantling collectibles of the intergalactic cast. That’s not to say that The Rep is an ultimate downer though.
While White focuses on rep cinemas from all over the world including active cinemas like The Alamo Drafthouse and long lost theatres like Toronto’s 99 Cent Roxy, he lets Toronto’s Underground Cinema anchor his film and tell a true story about how three normal schmoes went about to chase a dream, catch it, and then suffer financial and marketing problems.
Alex Woodside, Charlie Lawton, and Nigel Agnew are all likeable guys. It’s hard not to welcome them when they’re THIS dedicated to their love for movies. In fact, they’re so dedicated that when disappointment occurs, it hits them hard. Not only on a business level, but also on a personal level as well.
There’s a hovering foreboding, sinking feeling vibe if you know the ending to this main story. However, it’s easy to be distracted and focus on the camaraderie these three have. They’re all hard driven in their own ways and like an intricate puzzle, these pieces have found their way to make an aspiration become a reality.
This is a story filled with hope and tragedy. When we see the cinema hit rough patches and see these three start to unravel, there’s an initial feeling of warped curiosity to see a peek behind the curtain. Talks, thoughts, and meetings are shown; ones that audience members would’ve never expected.
That said, this curiosity soon turns into a compulsory need to root for this team. We see just how hard they’re trying to meet audience needs, to social network, and to fix problematic situations before a drastic butterfly effect occurs. These blunders and frustrations are easy to sympathize with as we’ve all been in situations where no matter how hard we try, there’s an unstoppable force that creates hiccups. The Rep may seem like a movie lover’s dreamland doc but it turns out to be a very emotional movie.
Interviews with other rep cinema owners and filmmakers (such as Pink Flamingos’ John Waters and Clerks’ Kevin Smith) are spliced in between the story taking place at the Toronto Underground Cinema – most likely to switch things up by getting similar opinions to what the three from T.O. are facing even though these guests aren’t directly asked about the little-cinema-that-could.
The interviews are handled quite well and though they carry information that doesn’t sit well at first, these moments never feel cynical or pessimistic. These are thoughts by people who have come to terms with the quality change in the industry and how it affects them as people who either make or show movies. They’ve acknowledged the storm and now they’re headed in with as much of a positive attitude as they can muster. Morgan White’s guests are all optimistic enough to make us feel like everything will be O.K. It sucks, but it’ll be O.K.
The Rep belongs in a category entitled “watching the inevitable unfold” with other documentaries such as Tony Montana and Mark Brian Smith’s ranting Overnight and Andy Deemer and Jason Foulke’s Poultrygeist making-of called Poultry in Motion: Truth is Stranger Than Chicken. I imagine the three from T.O. and White will take the latter as more of a heartfelt compliment.
The Rep may make you want to walk down the sidewalk kicking stones after the screening while Vince Guaraldi’s famous Peanuts ditty “Christmas Time Is Here” plays in your head, but you shouldn’t feel bummed out leaving the theatre. Act similarly to one of the strong people you’ve watched in this fascinating doc and act on those instincts of wanting to make a change within your community. As the doc reminds us, a movie goer’s interest and support is what these theatres and owners strive for. Turn that frown upside-down, drink in what White’s important doc is conveying, and put it to use.
Change the topic from the environment to movie going and you have a message that is as inspiring and valuable as Rob Stewart’s info in Revolution. Except with The Rep, these guys all keep their shirts on and wear pants.