SLAMDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2024 REVIEW! What defines failure or success in our lives? Surely, it can’t be the old tropes of money and fame. This major existential question is the theme in director Ryan Jacobi’s amusing documentary I’m “George Lucas”: A Connor Ratliff Story.
The film starts in New York City in 2019, following improv comedian Connor Ratliff at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. This is where he performs monthly live talk shows as Star Wars filmmaker George Lucas. Ratliff, his sidekick Griffin Newman (portraying the naturally absurd Phantom Menace character Watto), and producer Patrick Cotnoir bring on real showbiz guests such as SNL cast member Heidi Gardner, actor/writer Mo Rocca, among others. Connor plays Lucas with a referential wink and a nod as an optimistic character instead of making fun of the man he idolized as a child.
Deeper into the documentary, we find out about Ratliff’s origin story, so to speak. As a young actor, he landed a coveted small speaking role on the HBO series Band of Brothers. That is until icon Tom Hanks took away his part after saying that Connor looked like he had “dead eyes,” crushing the young man’s soul and sending him on a decade-long self-imposed acting exile.
“…performs monthly live talk shows as Star Wars filmmaker George Lucas.”
Ratliff does his DIY show out of love. We see him coughing as he sprays all of his hair color white, breaking down sets after shows, and hurriedly getting ready for another improv show right after his George Lucas talk show. He just wants to amuse his audience, however small that may be, and he accomplishes that. Connor picked up that mentality by growing up watching his father be a local weatherman and celebrity of sorts with a Mr. Rogers-like puppet show called Showtime.
We get another glimpse into Connor’s mentality when he talks about his fascination with George Lucas. He said that for all the enormous success that Lucas has had in show business, many people only think of him as a failure for what has come after the original Star Wars trilogy. Connor takes that underdog mentality to heart, along with his love of Star Wars, and brings joy to himself and others with it.
The final act looks at the pandemic lockdown and how Connor’s friends become concerned that after losing his live improv shows, he will go into another downward spiral, just like the Band of Brothers incident. Ratliff pushes on and actually gets big-time guests for his Zoom lockdown shows, such as Whoopi Goldberg, Kevin Smith, ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic, and Rachel Zegler, among others.
I dig the optimistic message of Ryan Jacobi’s movie that people should focus on making themselves happy, and that alone qualifies as success. He shows when Ratliff’s mother attends the live show for the first time, and the joy on her face says it all. What some people may think of as a silly movie actually explores more profound messages. I’m “George Lucas”: A Connor Ratliff Story may lead the way for the keys to success and happiness.
I’m “George Lucas”: A Connor Ratliff Story screened at the 2024 Slamdance Film Festival.
"…What some people may think of as a silly movie actually explores deeper messages. I’m “George Lucas”: A Connor Ratliff Story just may lead the way for the keys to success and happiness."