Friday, March 14, 2014

cinema obscura: Ron Howard's "EdTV" (1999)

Credit: Universal Pictures

Now is the time to praise Ron Howard's prescient comedy of 1999, "EdTV."

For two reasons.

First, it's a giddy reminder that before their bravura acting duet in "True Detective," the scorching anthology series recently from HBO, Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson shared a screen history.  They first teamed as brothers (and a fabulous match-up it was ) 15 years ago in Howard's underrated and now forgotten film, and they would subsequently join forces again about ten years later in an even lesser-known, more obscure title, S.R. Bindler's B-movie treat, "Surfer, Dude" (2008).

Secondly, "EdTV" is actually a film that deserves the lofty description of "prescient."  Howard made it on the cusp of television's seduction by reality.  McConaughey plays the title character, Eddie Perkurny, a video-store clerk who is "discovered" by an ambitious TV producer (played by Ellen DeGeneres) who decides he's worth trailing with a camera 24/7.

Peter Weir and Jim Carrey tackled the same basic idea the year before in more surreal terms in "The Truman Show," which was a bigger commercial and critical hit, but the Howard film is absolutely uncanny and unparalleled in its penchant for nailing the inanity of the Reality TV phenom.

One of Howard's strengths as a director is his eye for casting, especially the women in his films.  Aside from the perfect pairing of McConaughey and Harrelson as siblings, his cast includes Sally Kirkland as the boys' mother, Dennis Hopper as their estranged father, Martin Landau as their stepfather, Jenna Elfman as Eddie's girlfriend, plus Rob Reiner, Elizabeth Hurley, Adam Goldberg, Viveka Davis and, of course, DeGeneres.

All of them are clearly having fun with the fresh material.

Note in Passing:  "EdTV" was loosely based by Howard regulars Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel on the 1994 Québec  film, "Louis 19, le roi des ondes" ("King of the Airwaves"). Ganz and Mandel shared screenplay credits with the authors of the original, Sylvie Bouchard and  Émile Gaudreault.


Brian Lucas said...

I like this movie. Ed's feelings are so wonderfully human that they get the director’s respect and as played by McConaughy, he never seems to be simply a fool.

wallace said...

So McConaughy and Harrelson have a history. Hopefully, they'll team up in more films to come.