A film within a film. It has been done before, where the story contained within the story seems like the focus, then it redirects back to the real story and then back again. In Chained for Life this is done in several layers. You’re not sure which story is watching because technically every story is within the film.
Director and writer Aaron Schimberg gives us a film where every character is both an actor and a character of another story. Whether we are watching the exploitative film that uses a group of disabled people or we are watching a film about making such a film is slowly blurred.
When we start, Mabel (Jess Weixler) is an actress in the movie within the movie. She talks the politically correct game with a reporter, but she often has no clue what she’s talking about. She’s not the only one. Everyone involved in the film talks a big game about fair representation while exploiting the disabled actors brought in as extras and treated as a lower class.
To play one of the main parts, the production has chosen one of the disabled actors who has a disfigured face, Rosenthal (Adam Pearson). He has to endure a lot of patronizing from people who just come up to tell him he’s amazing without bothering to know him. The compliments are often just empty praise and very cringe-worthy.
The movie uses circular narrative to great effect. Trivial dialog said in one scene turns into real dialog some scenes ahead. You recognize scenes that were explained before or witness a conversation turn into scene. Everything is done in a retro style that evokes the genre films of the 70s. Quotes fly around as the filmmakers and crew try to seem sophisticated and fancy.
Recommended to serious genre movie fans. Yes, it’s a comedy but not in the same vein that any mainstream comedy film of nowadays. Although I always like to close reviews trying to find an audience for the film, I always wish that the casual moviegoer would take a chance with movies outside their comfort bubble. Take a risk, follow the storyline, get confused, figure it out and overall, have fun.
That will do for now.