As the voyeuristic era of “reality” based entertainment like “Jackass,” “Survivor,” and “American Idol” collides with the “almost real” parodies of Christopher Guest, (A Mighty Wind, Best in Show) a film like Randy Nargi’s “G-Sale” is initially difficult to distinguish as fact or fiction. Like Guest’s rock stars and dog-lovers, the spirited garage sale junkies who inhabit this funny film seem awfully true to life. Ultimately, however, we catch on that we’re in mockumentary land, and that such familiar folks live only in Nargi’s fertile imagination.
As we’re whisked away on this digitally filmed video journey through real estate offices, sedans, and retro shops, we meet a gaggle of garage sale fanatics. Tracking their query like archeologists on a grand quest, these suburban successors to Indiana Jones are observed stalking yards, basements, and estate-sale living rooms, in pursuit of chartreuse salt and pepper shakers, elephants chiseled from “compressed coconut,” and antique board games.
Set in the make-believe northwest community of Bogwood, “G-Sale” introduces this carpet of colorful obsessive-compulsives as they covet, collect, and hoard second hand items that somehow reinforce their respective identities. The sought-after trinkets pursued by Nargi’s salivating hunters are more than just frothy diversions. They’re reminders that each of these lost souls is still alive.
Ed La Sale (Scott Burns), for instance, is a middle-aged designer of virtual-reality video games. Perched in front of an office P.C., Ed pridefully explains that he once invented a hit computer role-play game called “Caves and Beasts.” Unfortunately, this cash cow ultimately came crashing down. “Game players went delusional,” Ed recalls, “like a tax assessor who went to work dressed as his favorite character, Melinda the Fairy Princess.” Later, after a frustrated secretary was inspired by the game to behead her boss, Ed’s career hit the skids. “There is such a thing as bad publicity,” he laments. “That killed sales.”
Nargi has obviously enjoyed the considerable time spent inventing obscure knicknacks, trinkets, trifles, and tidbits for “G-Sale.” One highly coveted, hard-to-find board game, for instance, was taken off the market because of its potential harm to children. “The stiff paper stock it was printed on,” one character explains with a dead-serious, all-business monotone, “was causing kids to get paper cuts like crazy. So they recalled it.”
Acting as the stomping ground for such savvy shoppers, the Bogwood town also becomes a weighty character in the “G-Sale” mix. Malcolm Urubaden (Terry Johnson), a dedicated town historian, proudly proclaims that Bogwood “has more garages per capita than any town in the nation.”
Meanwhile, we’re educated to the entire sweep of American garage sale culture, courtesy Vicky Bell (Mary White), a no-nonsense Real Estate agent whose hyper-organized, anal-retentive approach to life makes Martha Stewart look like Felix Unger. “People get confused by the nomenclature,” she explains. “On the East Coast, they have tag sales. In the Midwest, they have yard sales. In the south, they have porch sales or ‘gimme’ sales. The West Coast, of course, has garage sales or ‘g-sales.”
The portly heart of “G-Sale,” however, is embodied by Ted D’Arms, a burly teddy bear of a man with the heft and humor of John Goodman. Playing frustrated sitcom icon Dick Nickerson, retired star of a revered 60’s sitcom called “Pot o’ Gold,” D’Arms exposes the complicated layers of a man both applauded and tormented by his past. After playing a gregarious leprechaun on the legendary series, Nickerson has been typecast ever since. “I was on a commercial for a frosted children’s cereal,” he reveals with a sigh, “and worked on another one for a green and white Irish soap.”
Ultimately, Nargi’s motley crew of eccentric pack rats is assembled together at an estate sale. Like “Survivor” contestants competing for a million dollar prize, these rival buyers sweet-talk, double-cross, and out-maneuver each other to bag this second-hand big game.
“G-Sale” isn’t out to save the world or probe deep issues. It’s a light day’s entertainment, as tasty and satisfying as a latte sipped from the shores of Lake Washington. Meanwhile, Nargi is a Seattle talent to be commended for putting Puget Sound Parody on the map.