Overnight

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The Independent Culture

He wasn't destined to, as quickly became apparent. Among Duffy's many egregious mistakes, the biggest was to enlist Mark Brian Smith and Tony Montana, his band's managers, to make a film documenting his rise. It's entirely Duffy's fault, then, if he's exposed in Overnight as a tinpot dictator, a ranting buffoon combining infinite self-regard with bottomless insecurity and who, to compound his sins, insists on wearing dungarees and an Ice Cube scowl. Overnight is a succulent helping of revenge enjoyed by two film-makers mistreated by their subject - the proverbial "disgruntled former employees". Yet you can't help feeling, if not exactly sympathetic, then at least sorry for Duffy, an insignificant blowhard who perhaps doesn't deserve being pilloried quite so publicly, even if he does provide his own rotten tomatoes.

Duffy takes to his meagre taste of fame like a hog to the trough, mouthing off that "there are people in Kansas and Cleveland with my face on their refrigerator." But Hollywood colludes in his delusion: his bar is briefly a hip place to hang out, and Duffy and his cohorts are soon carousing with the famous (Jeff Goldblum), the fairly famous (Billy Zane), and the straight-to-video famous (Emilio Estevez). The really big names, when it comes to casting his film, are there to be sniped at: Keanu Reeves is a "fuckin' punk", Ethan Hawke "a talentless fool". Then suddenly, everything goes sour: Miramax executives decline to return Duffy's calls and his film goes into turnaround. It eventually gets made elsewhere, and tanks; his band's CD sells 690 copies; Duffy's last professional appearance is at a film studies class, dazzling the students with his belligerent defeatism.

Unfortunately, we never learn exactly why Duffy's deal implodes. We assume he brings it on himself by being surpassingly obnoxious. But this is Miramax, a company that traditionally takes abrasive motormouths (Tarantino, Kevin Smith et al) to its bosom: how obnoxious do you have to be to alienate Miramax? Overnight never addresses the question of whether the film industry should have massaged Duffy's unstable ego in the first place, before so precipitously letting him drop. To do so, Smith and Montana would have needed to be more curious as documentarists, or more willing to move outside the narrow orbit of Duffy's beery all-guys world. The film industry is only shown from a distance - Weinstein is glimpsed for a second, scoffing ice cream in Cannes - but what we see looks truly rancid. Most appalling - straight out of Curb Your Enthusiasm - is the hail-fellow-well-met agent who jokes, "Trust no one - including me!" (He's right: Duffy's deal means he earns nothing from his film's surprise success on video.) Be prepared to cringe at the backslapping, especially the scene where Duffy and co fall about in sycophantic hysterics at Billy Connolly's showing-off on set.

Smith and Montana earn plus points for implicating themselves unfavourably as hangers-on. In one especially abject moment, Smith feebly complains to Duffy about not getting paid, and endures a vicious rant in return, yet sticks around for more of the same, making you wonder whether he's easily cowed or just quietly plotting this stitch-up all along. The real sympathy we feel is for the band, bovine hairies whose faces hang mutely crestfallen throughout: most of all, Duffy's guitarist brother Taylor, by all accounts the band's real talent, but not the sort to talk back. In a telling moment, the band's producer wonders whether they get any pleasure out of what they do: apparently they don't, but need to be dominated. In this sense, Overnight is a study of people's readiness to defer to charismatic megalomaniacs, and it wouldn't make a bad double-bill with the recent Hitler film Downfall. Even as Duffy's Reich crumbles, he still deludes himself: Weinstein, he rages, "wants to be me!" Overnight is enormously entertaining, true car-crash cinema, but in the end you feel you're enjoying it in bad faith. And ultimately it serves the business it claims to tilt at: its implied logic is that if Duffy blew it because he was a boor, then those who succeed must be at least relatively decent. The film you really want to see is one that spills the dirt on some supposed Hollywood straight arrow with real success to their name. Until that happens, Troy Duffy is an awfully small fish to roast so flamboyantly.

j.romney@independent.co.uk

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