I am so glad to live in New York City, where it is possible to see a weird, personal film like Betsey Brown’s Actors in a movie theater. Ilyse Singer is in charge of programming at the Roxy Cinema, and I’m so glad she chose this oddball title. I think it’s imperative for the public to experience art that isn’t some formulaic carbon copy of everything that came before it.
I first noticed Brown as an actor in her brother Peter Vack’s A******s. That film is a whole other weird AF can of worms (that I love), but it’s relevant to the overall theme of Betsey’s film. Both feature siblings, playing highly (?) fictionalized versions of themselves. In addition to Brown and Vack starring in each other’s feature films, their parents, Ron and Jane Brown, star in them as well. And the material that these two put their parents in, I couldn’t imagine my parents agreeing to go anywhere near it. I asked Jane why she lets her kids subject her to their creative insanity, and she said, “I don’t know, I guess I’m a masochist.” HA!
“…Peter gradually decides…to become a woman… for the sake of art.”
Actors begins by focusing on Betsey (Betsey Brown), who struggles to find work as an actor and be taken seriously as a filmmaker. She’s made videos for YouTube and other social media channels for ages and feels that anything worth happening should be filmed. Peter (Peter Vack) is an actor/filmmaker who is also dissatisfied with the progress he’s making in his career. So instead of going through regular avenues to improve his chances of getting noticed, Peter gradually decides to do something much more shocking, which is to become a woman… for the sake of art.
When I first read the film’s synopsis, I was pretty floored. Right now is probably the best and worst time to come out with something like this. First and foremost, let me just put this out there to clear some possible ideas. In my opinion (as a cis white woman, lol, I know that holds so much water), there’s not an ounce of transphobia present. The film is a commentary on many celebrities’ tone-deaf approach to their own lives, forgetting that they have some sort of social responsibility as public figures. But should they? Really, what makes actors suitable as role models? If anything, this film does about as much to dispel that mythos as possible.
"…pretty damn revolutionary..."