Casting About Movie Review

Casting sessions and tryouts have always held an inordinate amount of interest for some people, from HBO's Unscripted to A Chorus Line they've seemingly provided a dramatic manner in which to watch hardworking thespians being subjected to ruthless, no-holds-barred criticism and snap judgments that can have lasting impact on their careers; like reality TV, only more so. It may be, though, that people aren't all that terribly interested in the whole process. Maybe it's just that entertainment types, having spent a good part of their lives going through such soul-rending encounters, assume that they would be a font of nearly automatic drama: who wouldn't watch that?

Such an assumption, sadly, may have been the inspiration behind the lifeless new documentary Casting About. Filmmaker Barry J. Hershey was casting actresses in 2000 for a feature film (that apparently has not yet been made), and after setting up in Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London, and Los Angeles, had met some 350 of them and collected some 70 hours of audition footage. Those hundreds of monologues, brief chats, and abrupt confessions were later woven together into this film, as a means of creating a non-linear document about the casting process. In theory, this could make for some astounding cinema, ripe with dramatic tension and naked expression; in practice, it's a wretched snooze.

Primary among Casting About's problems is the very basic fact that the actresses here -- at very least the ones which Hershey has chosen to focus on -- are simply not very good. Even the bad ones don't have the potential for camp entertainment. It's simply an amateur parade of well-meaning and very decent-seeming young women who don't seem able (at least in the context of what we're shown) to produce even a short scene of true emotional honesty. Without that base of dramaturgical fascination to fall back on, there's little left for the film to do but spin its wheels.

With no overarching narration or scene-setting (we never know what city we're in, but for the accents, and almost never what play the actress took their monologue from), Casting About coasts along in a particularly arrhythmic fashion. Hershey wisely makes it unclear where the extemporaneous dialogue ends and the acting begins, leading to some occasional moments of frisson like with the actress who launches into an account of how she'd been victim of a crime years before and today was the date of her victimizer's sentencing. It seems real enough, as she pulls herself together enough to then go into her monologue, but Hershey leaves moments like this unexplained.

For the most part, though, the film has little to recommend it, being stuffed to the gills with rather poorly-performed monologues, all of it culminating in nothing. A more skillfully produced film could have turned this all into a comment on the creative process, a means of limning the vast amounts of tear-stained effort goes into trying out for something that, often as not, never comes to fruition anyway. It would have been nice to have seen that film.

Cast & Crew

Director : Barry J. Hershey

Producer : Lewis Wheeler


Casting About Rating

" Grim "

Rating: NR, 2004


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