Saturday, 20 October 2018

Movie Review:EDtv (1999)


A romantic comedy with a satirical edge, EDtv explores the ups and downs of day-to-day life in the era of trash reality television.

In San Francisco, television executive Cynthia Redd (Ellen DeGeneres) conceives of a new TrueTV network consisting of 24/7 live coverage of one individual's life. Ray Pekurny (Woody Harrelson) is keen to apply, but his more lackadaisical brother Ed (Matthew McConaughey) is selected instead.

The Pekurnies are a rambunctious blue collar family, with the intense Ray dreaming of opening a gym and making it rich, while Ed is happily stuck in a dead-end job as a video store clerk. Their mother Jeanette (Sally Kirkland) was abandoned by her husband Hank (Dennis Hopper) and is now in a relationship with the wheelchair-bound Al (Martin Landau).

With cameras recording Ed's every move, the show gets off to a slow start, but when Ray cheats on his girlfriend Shari (Jenna Elfman) and Ed and Shari become a couple, ratings and viewership take off. The network is renamed EDtv, and Cynthia's boss Whitaker (Rob Reiner) is thrilled. But maintaining a relationship under the constant glare of the cameras proves too much for Shari, and Ed confronts the downsides of sudden fame.

Directed by Ron Howard and written by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, EDtv deserves credit for creating new space to explore within the romantic comedy genre. And the arena of reality television, where life becomes a show and every nobody can imagine being a celebrity, proves to be a challenging environment for love to thrive.

Howard captures the claustrophobic and bizarre freakshow of continuous filming around one individual. The camera operators and sound technicians capturing Ed's every moment are never more than a couple of feet away from him, or scrambling to catch up. The ego boost of course goes to Ed's head, and he frequently slips into playing for the cameras, often to the detriment of those around him. As real as it wants to be, reality television by its mere presence alters reality.

And Shari is understandably unable to cope. Living in a fishbowl, unsure of whether any of Ed's emotions are genuine, and judged by an entire nation of voyeurs, she seeks to disengage. Whatever could have been real between them is threatened by the freakshow of obsessive celebrity.

EDtv touches on other pertinent themes, including the pleasure Middle America takes in gawking at the unkempt lives of the unwashed, Cynthia and her team unable to resist stage-managing moments to boost ratings, television feeding on itself as Ed's life becomes fodder for late night talk show hosts, and the profits-above-all mentality of network executives.

The cast members maintain their footing amidst the unhinged reality, with McConaughey, Harrelson and DeGeneres adding the right touches of humour, while Elfman conveys the hurt confusion of a woman victimized - repeatedly - by a circus she never asked to attend.

Prescient and accurate, EDtv reflects a society regressing in real time on a diet of intellectual junk.






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