Morty Fineman makes low budget independent films, but not “The Blair Witch Project” or “The Sixth Sense” type that have upset the power balance in Hollywood these past few years.
No, the films Fineman directs are graced with titles like “Nanny Hooter’s Hootenannies,” “The Foxy Chocolate Robot” and “Teenie Weenie Bikini Party.” Firearms, top-heavy heroines, and bad acting are the three main elements in any Fineman classic … if, of course, he actually existed.
In “The Independent,” Jerry Stiller plays Fineman, a maker of 1970’s exploitation films who has achieved minor cult status and continues his “art.” But because of his refusal to play by the rules or to work with the major studios, Fineman is so over his head in debt that the bankers he owes have offered to buy his entire life’s work of 427 films for $8 a pound.
Janeane Garofalo, whose comic timing and chemistry with Stiller make the film worth watching, plays Fineman’s daughter and business partner, Paloma. One of Fineman’s finest, “Cheerleader Camp Massacre” was written to ease his daughter’s pain after being rejected from that high school pinnacle of female popularity, the cheerleading squad.
“The Independent” uses a mix of “mockumentary” interviews of other filmmakers, quirky hand-held camera techniques, and snippets of Fineman’s earlier works. Some of the film’s funniest moments come from these clips. In Fineman’s “Brothers Divided,” a hawk-and-dove pair of Siamese twin brothers are drafted into Vietnam. “Eco-angels” is an exploitation piece about militant environmentalist biker girls. And “The Simplex Complex” is an ambitious Bergman-inspired VD film produced for the military by a young Fineman.
All in all, Stiller is genuinely funny as an aging idealist who does not quite possess the artistic depth to evolve beyond his B-movie beginnings. Although the plot is stretched quite thin by the end of the film’s 85 minutes, “The Independent” is still an amusing spoof of the film industry in general.