Living in Oblivion is an immensely entertaining low-budget independent film about a filmmaker struggling to make a low-budget independent film. It’s like a 90-min film school for aspiring filmmakers and should be a treat for all filmmakers who has already had their share of struggles, especially someone who is into independent filmmaking. The film stars Steve Buscemi as Nick Reve, an enthusiastic filmmaker going through different kinds of troubles while trying to finish his film. This is a comedy and a damn good one at that. I haven’t had this much fun while watching a film in such a long time. There are some
interesting spoilers in this that I won’t divulge. So, I’m going to just stick with the necessary details.
The film starts with an opening sequence showing Nick trying to get two actresses Nicole and Cora, playing daughter and mother respectively, to do an emotional scene. Every possible obstacle that one can encounter in a situation like this, happens. First, a boom mic becomes visible in the shot, then the camera assistant messes up the focus by mistake and later, the light bulb explodes. When Nick asks for a rehearsal, he sees that a small gesture from Cora reminds Nicole of her dead mother and this gets Nicole emotional and she convincingly performs her scene. The only issue here is that the camera wasn’t rolling
and Nick is frustrated. Then, while they start rolling the camera, an annoying intermittent beep comes out of nowhere and Nick blows his fuse just like the bulb and verbally abuses
everyone on the set.
The next trouble comes in the form of Chad Palomino, an overzealous young actor obsessed with improvisation. He has just slept with Nicole and he is hoping to see her again. But she declines. When a key scene involving Nicole and Chad is being filmed, their personal issues interfere and this repeatedly screws up the scene. This further irritates Nick and he is desperately trying to band-aid the situation. Also, Chad’s attempts to teach Nick how to film the scene doesn’t help things either. Nick realizes that he is unable to make things work as he wants to and grows increasingly frustrated. And to add fuel to the fire, Chad makes a remark that blows Nick’s fuse once again. The remark is: “The only reason I took this part was because someone said that you were tight with Quentin
Tarantino!”.This invites a nasty response from Nick and both of them get into a fistfight.
Then there is another situation with a dwarfish actor (Peter Dinklage in his debut role) that is equally funny. Anyway, Living in Oblivion (which also happens to be the title of the film Nick is directing) plays out like the nightmare of the director of this film, Tom DiCillo. He must have really experienced and then perhaps decided to turn it into a screenplay. It was a great idea. The film is filled with oddball characters – with the exception of Nick – that reminded me of DiCaprio’s gang in The Wolf of Wall Street. Everyone has their own idiosyncrasies and it’s a real blast watching their antiques. Steve Buscemi’s character at times reminded me so much of Mr. Pink, the character he played in Reservoir Dogs.
This is that rare film that gives you the film school experience without actually going to one.