“Down and Out In Beverly Hills” this ain’t. “Have You Seen Clem” is a different type of homeless person movie — it’s a “docu-dram-edy.” I didn’t make that up, either.
Finding himself suddenly homeless, skate rat and wannabe filmmaker Jaymo decides to use his video camera to make a documentary on what he’s getting a first-hand glimpse at — the homeless. He skates around town, interviewing different derelicts, but it’s one special person that he becomes fascinated with, a mysterious can collector named Clem who Jaymo constantly sees around. In his pursuit to nab an interview with the man, it is Jaymo who actually gets nabbed by Clem, revealing that he’s no mere can-collecting bum, but a wealthy entrepreneur named Weredail who’d rather remain unseen.
You see, Weredail got screwed out of his restaurant franchise by a greedy banker. So he decided to hit the streets, posing as an eccentric homeless person because he figures that this way he can remain invisible while plotting his revenge against the man who stole his dream.
Now that he’s blown his cover to Jaymo, Weredail concocts a plan that will allow him to exact his revenge, while giving Jaymo a shot at making a bigger and better documentary on the homeless in America as they take a road trip to Tennessee to find the greedy bastard that ruined Weredail’s life. Along the way, Jaymo interviews various homeless people. Weredail helps by documenting his adventures as Clem with a mini-camera hooked up to his glasses.
Part narrative and part documentary, I enjoyed “Have You Seen Clem” most when it was doing what, I assume, was the filmmakers original intent, and that was to make a down-in-the-trenches documentary on the homeless. I loved listening to the stories and ideas from these people. I loved hearing their music, which is used all throughout the film as a soundtrack, a damn good one at that. And I loved seeing how every city had its own brand of derelict. It’s funny, there’s a message within this film about not letting material possessions own you, yet it’s the different material worlds surrounding these homeless people that seem to dictate their outlook on things. In Los Angeles you got a homeless guy screaming “Rock and Roll,” in Vegas you have another guy explaining the evils of gambling and out in the barren desert you have the weird dudes who are into spirituality, conspiracy theory and nature. Very interesting.
But then along comes the narrative to break up the fun about every five minutes. The only interesting aspect of this story is the Clem character, who wanders around videotaping his interactions with your average man on the street because it goes along nicely with the documentary aspect of this feature. Other than that, I wasn’t interested in the narrative at all. I think it’s a flimsy idea made worse by crumby acting. But once again, the only actor that deserves credit is Weredail as Clem. His is a hilarious performance that I could’ve watched, for 90 minutes, all by itself.
I’m afraid that over-ambition has stopped this feature from being all that it could be. The filmmakers should have left the narrative to the storytellers and stuck to what they’re good at, and that’s being documentary filmmakers.