FORWARD 13: WAKING UP THE AMERICAN DREAM Image

According to the press notes accompanying this documentary feature, filmmaker Patrick Lovell “set out to discover why the American Dream failed him and millions of others.” However, it appears that Lovell is less interested in the “millions of others” and more interested in himself.

Lovell tries to usurp Michael Moore’s shtick as the camera-toting champion for the beleaguered everyman. The problem is that whereas Moore concentrates on his distinctive political views rather than his personal misadventures, Lovell’s film feels like a shameless vanity video – in fact, the film’s opening sequence is a seemingly endless skein of footage and photographs of the filmmaker in the midst of skate boarding romps and skiing and scuba diving trips.

Lovell’s personal woes are centered on the foreclosure of his home, which he blames on his mortgage servicers. The fact that he took out an expensive mortgage without having a secured income stream to guarantee steady loan payments is casually overlooked. Nonetheless, he quickly raises funds for a cross-country motor trip where he interviews members of the Occupy Wall Street protests and a variety of talking head experts, but everyone he meets repeats the now-tiresome observation that the “system” is broken.

With nearly every interview, however, Lovell hogs the camera with his bombastic on-screen personality, which makes the film almost unwatchable at times. The film ultimately offers no solutions, let alone a suggestion that many people might actually be responsible for their own fiscally reckless behavior, and Lovell’s decision to start a political action committee gives the hint that film sequels might be in the works.

Let’s hope not! As non-fiction filmmaking goes, this work is a complete disaster.

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  1. E.S. says:

    The discussion made me quite curious of the film. Upon viewing it I actually thought it was surprisingly clear about a solution in the guise of Jeremy Rifkin’s ideas. A deeper look reveals Mr. Rifkin’s work with Germany and many other governments that are making real strides in non-fossil fuel based energy independence.

    Personally I felt a guy telling his own story was useful departure from what so many other films covering the crisis have done and i also thought that throughout the film he did place himself in the crosshairs of accountability, enough anyways to keep me listening.

    Yes the film has flaws but I think you overstate them.

    Just one guys opinion.

  2. Phil Hall says:

    @Hadria and @Dave – thanks very much for the kind words!

    @Patrick – hey, if you’re going to follow in Michael Moore’s footsteps, you need to remember that criticism is a two-way street. If you can dish it out, you should be able to take it. You won’t win friends or influence people by dissing the critics! Believe me, I could fill a book with all of the nasty putdowns I’ve received in my quarter-century-plus of writing!

    And, as an aside, here’s a shout out to Kevin Chapman at Dow Jones & Co. – he is a fan of my work as a film writer, but he just found out that I’m also a financial journalist!

  3. Hadria D. says:

    Seems like this filmmaker wants to leave out in his comment that Phil Hall is also a published author of several books on film and a writer for the New York Times. Maybe he should use his vitriolic energy towards making a good documentary that can make a difference and not some crap film.

  4. Dave T. says:

    Aside from being an honest-to-goodness film critic, Mr. Hall must’ve hit the filmmaker right in the heart given his puerile response. With an amazing critique that came right of of part of Mr. Hall’s Wikipedia page (neglecting of course, his proven chops writing for several reputable papers including The New York Times, as well as writing at least four books on movie criticism), Lovell shows himself a true pro at saying nothing at all. Furthermore, his infantile attempt to sway people by showing Mr. Hall writes and has written for legitimate financial concerns reveals how butt-hurt he was made by the truthful assessment of his, “film.”

  5. At first I felt like responding to this ridiculously clueless and pathetic review and then I found this out about Phil Hall: Hall is also a financial writer for Progress in Lending, and he was formerly an editor for two mortgage banking magazines, Secondary Marketing Executive and Servicing Management, and the daily MortgageOrb news site

    You’ve got to be kidding me?!!!?!?

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