It’s all fun and hometown hijinks in Patrick Franklin’s mockumentary feature Pushin’ Up Daisies. Darren (Sheehan O’Heron) has convinced his friend Anthony (Orlando Vicente) to follow Darren back to his hometown of Tokyo, Georgia to film a documentary about Darren’s brother Rusty (Simon Sorrells). Or about Rusty’s job delivering flowers. Or about flowers. Darren isn’t terribly clear on what it is he wants to make a documentary about so much as he just wants Anthony to film everything.
Which Anthony does, capturing the strange reunion between Rusty and Darren, the blind Mr. Emerson (Ken Osbourn) with the golden voice who records audiobooks for the blind and interactions with some not-so-friendly locals. When it comes time to finally start shooting real documentary footage for Darren’s film, however, everything goes to hell when a zombie apocalypse occurs.
Only these aren’t the suped-up zombies of today, think more the early Romero zombies. Slow and annoying more than anything. Faced with this inconvenience to his documentary, Darren does the only thing he can. No, he doesn’t make a documentary about zombies. He focuses back on his own documentary, attempting to shoot around the zombie obstacles.
You’re probably thinking, “A zombie mockumentary comedy? Haven’t I seen that before?” And, yeah, you probably have, so I can understand if you’d be a little hesitant about checking this one out, but it must be said that this is actually a really funny mockumentary about filmmaking and family that just so happens to have zombies in it. Honestly, the zombies are not really the focus here. S**t, now I sound like the Darren character.
But it’s true. The humor in the film is often at the expense of the somewhat insane Darren, whose documentary is more of an obtrusive presence in his hometown than the eventual arrival of the undead. And the filmmaking humor is actually funny, not just laughs because someone can’t keep the boom mic out of the frame (a filmmaking mockumentary genre go-to at this point). Instead, for example, we get the subtlety of Anthony trying to find a way to frame a shot that doesn’t include the branding of major restaurants and corporations that seem to exist from every vantage point.
The film also has heart, as there is some sincere unfinished business between Rusty and Darren. When the truth about their family is revealed, it’s actually heartbreaking, and the film takes on a whole new level of complexity where it is no longer a weird novelty, but actually saying something about life, death and closure.
So overall, I was pleasantly surprised by Pushin’ Up Daisies. I didn’t read the synopsis before watching, but when it showed itself to be a filmmaking mockumentary I did get that sense of “here we go again” that, happily, quickly disappeared. It’s just a fun, entertaining film on a number of levels.
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