Jimmy O?Brien is a stand-up comedian ? and not a very good one ? which explains his day job at Tops Grocery. Like any dreamer, Jimmy yearns to escape his working class roots and make it big, if not for the nagging details ... more »of his small life. Jimmy lives with his high school sweetheart Annie, their daughter Wendy, and his wheelchair-bound grandmother Ruth in a sagging house propped among the stark suburban sprawl of blue-collar New Jersey. Jimmy finds release amid a lonely stretch of comedy clubs along the Jersey Turnpike. Like a poor man?s Lenny Bruce, Jimmy lets fly with a biting commentary on the naked details of his life. As Jimmy?s situation devolves with passing year, so too does his routine, until the line between persona and reality is blurred entirely. In the uncompromising style of his acclaimed feature debut Joe the King, Whaley?s The Jimmy Show explores an America where dreams are sometimes few and far between. With honesty, compassion, and wit, The Jimmy Show reminds us that sometimes what we?re searching for has been there all along.« less
"I'm not surprised to be the "first to review this DVD" not because the film is bad--on the contrary, it's very good, but because it's tough getting films like this across to a conformist audience anymore. Show me a Hollywood film released in the last five years that ISN'T about keeping the family unit intact and I'll stop doing Amazon reviews.My brother in law asked me "is this because Hollywood is giving people exactly what they want; or is it because Hollywood as part of some disiplinary matrix is keeping the populace pacified by films like this-- making them believe that BEING is all that matters because BECOMING is to dangerous and threatening to EMPIRE?"For instance,everyone raved about how great and gritty and real "Narc" was, but reduce it down to its esccence and what do you get? Answer: a flawed but good cop just trying to keep his dead partners family together via benifits from the PD. Check out "Gladiator" ('Just wanna get back to my wife and kid') or "Master and Commander" ("This [the ship] is your home!)etc, etc.My answer was, "we, as a society, have pretty much internalized the lust for being over becoming and don't need anyone to remind us. But we don't need to be reminded that Coke exists either and yet...[to clarify my terms: BEING is holding on to the status quo no matter the cost. Becoming is being willing to risk holding on to the status quo--even family-- in order to effect real and lasting change.]And I'm not talking about becoming a rock star or a pro athlete or some other celeb or becoming an accountant or lawyer or any number of the socialy acceptable (read: harmless) roles we're allowed to strive and struggle for. I'm talking about becoming a changed society--a society that doesn't sit back and passively watch Arnold get thirty million dollars to do "Terminator Three" while there are millions who can barely lift their hands from weakness to accept a crumb. A society that revolts against them telling us: "hey you can just be you and we'll put YOU on TV! because what's really important is what regular guy this regular chick picks to marry in a million dollar wedding so they can go on their millon dollar honeymoon. And don't concern yourself with the fact that while you watch, another half a dozen civillians just bought it in Bagdad joining the ten thousand we already killed over there..." Alas, we're far from being that kind of society, so films like the "Jimmy Show" are marginalized or simply ignored. Jimmy seems to make his decision to be a stand up comedian based on not much of anything. It's sort of a knee jerk reaction to not wanting to be like the rest but made by a guy ill-equipped to seek original options. His tragedy is NOT like the Amazon synopsis says--driving home my rambling point--that "what is important[family]has been there all along"; but that Jimmy knows there is something wrong but unlike Neo in the "Matrix" doesn't have the imaginaion or the energy to do anything about it. The result is, he loses his family. Whaley isn't trying to tell us :Gee, if this guy only knew that his family was all that really mattered he'd happily live out a dull existence." He's telling us: "look, here's a guy that knows there's something wrong with the dreary consumer existance everyone around him is living but he's so mired in it himself, he can't think beyond being a stand up comedian as an attempt at escaping it all. In the end he fails to escape and loses his wife and kid in the process." See this movie and also Whaley's first: "Joe The King""
Sal Paradise | Washington, DC | 05/10/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This was a pretty depressing film. You have Jimmy O'Brien who by all accounts is a loser. He works at a Supermarket where he is eventually fired for stealing cases of beer. He lives with his invalid grandmother whom he cusses out on occaision, he marries his highschool sweetheart, they have a daugther and they all live in that small house that's constantly falling prey to termites. On top of this he is a terrible stand up comic who talks about his problems, his trials and tribulations but it never seems to amuse his audience, it's stand up tradegy and not stand up comedy. For some reason I liked this movie. Jimmy's life never gets any better, in fact it gets progressively worse to point where you think he'll snap but the movie leaves off there. There is really no happy resolution. Hmm seems like reality or an anti-film much in the vein of I SHOT ANDY WARHOL."
Cosmoetica | New York, USA | 09/19/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In order to be a good critic one has to rise above one's personal biases. Period. If one cannot get past hating love stories or action films, then one should not practice the craft, because there are good films that are mere love stories or action films. It is the excellence of the film, and how it achieves its excellence, that is more important than what sort of a film it is. This basic lack of understanding how to separate one's likes from the objective ability of art to effectively communicate, is why most critics fail in their task. On a related plane is the inability of many critics to distinguish between when a film is something, and when it is merely about something. A good example of this is the 2001 independent film by actor/director Frank Whaley, called The Jimmy Show (nothing at all like the Jim Carrey vehicle, The Truman Show); his second directorial effort after 1999's lauded Sundance Festival film Joe The King. It is a very good, albeit not great, film about the depressing life of a working class loser. Yet, the film itself is never depressing, despite its being damned to obscurity by critics for that very fact. Again, the point is that film critics claimed something about the film that is about what the film portrays, not how it portrays it.... In many ways, Jimmy O'Brien is like George Bailey, from It's A Wonderful Life, save for two things- the first is that he's a miserable person whose own misery has cost him everything. He has no Mr. Potter as antagonist, and although George Bailey's choices also result in his depression at the end of that film, all of his choices have been selfless, not selfish. Jimmy O'Brien, on the other hand, has been behind all of his failures, because he has tried to please no one but himself. The second is that Jimmy O'Brien is beyond help and hope. Even were a guardian angel, like Bailey's Clarence Oddbody, to intervene, Jimmy would never pay attention long enough to learn. He has no need for others' counsel, and cares not to hear it. In this way, The Jimmy Show is the ultimate realist film, for there are far more Jimmy O'Briens in the world than George Baileys. But, it is the life of the fictive Jimmy O'Brien that depresses one, not the film about him, for this little film can make one feel much better about the lives they've lived, not only because how well the portrait of him is crafted, but if only because a viewer is not as badly off as the lead character. How many DVD viewers lead lives that have far too much truck with aspects of the characters from this film? I would say too many- most of whom would not want to admit it, which is the answer as to why this film was so unfairly panned upon its release. Looking into a mirror, when one does not like what one sees, is always a downer, and The Jimmy Show is a filmic mirror for far too large a portion of an American audience for it to have ever had any great financial nor critical success. But, it is the failure to look at what the mirror reflects, rather than what the mirror is, that was the cause for much of the hostility that this good little film engendered. But, with that knowledge in mind, take a second glance into the looking glass of The Jimmy Show, and Jimmy O'Brien's life. It's worth a bit of redemption, if not for him nor you, then for art. "
D. Hartley | Seattle, WA USA | 10/04/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The second directorial effort from actor Frank Whaley, best known to mainstream audiences for brief yet memorable roles in "Field Of Dreams" and "Pulp Fiction". Whaley has become a mid-level "star" of sorts in the realm of indie film, usually playing tortured, angst-filled characters whose actions belie his benign "baby-faced" exterior ("Swimming With Sharks", "Homage"). "The Jimmy Show" is no exception-in fact, Whaley, who directs himself as the main character, rather over-plays the angst in this relentlessly downbeat story. "Jimmy" is a smarter-than-average "Joe Six-pack" who supports his wife and invalid grandmother by working a dreary, souless warehouse job. One day he decides to take a stab at performing open mic stand-up at the neighborhood comedy club. On the same day, his wife announces she is pregnant with thier first child. I would like to say that the story takes off from there, but it doesn't. Oh- I almost forgot-his wife eventually leaves him, he gets even MORE depressed, loses his job and his grandmother dies (if he had a dog, I'm sure it would get run over). Aside from the odd "6 months later" or a "2 years later" CG to advise the audience that time is passing, we don't detect any growth or redemption in Jimmy's chronically underachieving life (nor in his stand-up act, which consists of un-funny, self-loathing psychobabble that he should be unloading in a psychiatrist's office, not onstage). As a former "part-time" comic myself, I can assure you there is no comedy club manager in the country that would let someone with an act that vitriolic continue performing for several years in a row (they would lose all thier customers!) The piece is well-acted and directed, but the question becomes: Do we really need to go the movies and pay money to be reminded how dreary and despairing day-to-day existence can be?"
Lauren | New York, NY | 09/08/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of my top five favorite films of all time. I don't understand why people find it so depressing. Yes, it's SAD- but COME ON!! It's interesting and intelligent and honest and it has real value. What is genuinely sad is the majority of films that DO get good distrabution that lack this much honesty and unique and understated acting. It's the best thing I've ever seen Carla Gugino and Ethan Hawke do! As for Frank Whaley- I mean, good God, he's on a whole other plane. And it's FUNNY! There are two scenes in particular that make me laugh each and every time I see them. Whaley somehow makes Jimmy O'Brien a real PERSON. He's so overwhelmingly flawed and quirky and funny and sad and complex and REAL and just so fascinating to watch. I care about him and what happens to him within the first two minutes of the movie. I BELIEVE Carla Gugino and Frank Whaley's realtionship so much more than almost any other film I've seen. I laugh and cry no matter how many times I've seen it before. In my opinion, performance wise- it's beyond anything anyone could ever hope for in a film."