AMERICAN MOVIE is one of the most devastating, inspiring, and important films to hit the Documentary scene in decades. It is hilarious at times, depressing and hopeless at others, but regardless of the emotional response, it remains entertaining from start to finish. The filmmakers follow the life of Mark Borchardt as he attempts to complete his life's work in NORTHWESTERN, a Life and Times film based on his personal experiences struggling to make ends meet in lower-Middle Class Wisconsin. With past-due bills mounting up, time slipping by, and financing running short, Mark decides to complete his work on an earlier film COVEN in order to raise funds for his feature film. What starts as a behind the scenes documentary turns into an in depth exploration and character study of several heart-felt and sincere individuals struggling to achieve the American dream. While Mark, his ex-druggie pal Mike, fading Uncle Bill, and disillusioned parents may not be ideal role models, one thing is for certain: they are 100% real depictions of the human condition. Regardless of what new difficulties life brings in each waking moment, Mark adamantly maintains a positive attitude and progresses in a forward motion, somehow beating the odds in the face of endless adversity. One can't help but sympathize with he and each of the other characters, even though it is Mark's own personal vices like unemployment, lack of motivation, and alcoholism that set him back from his ultimate goal. In the end, when COVEN is completed and his life's dream is within grasp, the audience shares in his accomplishment and overwhelming sense of self-satisfaction, an empathetic response that is lacking in so many other soulless cinematic features. Everyone should make an effort to see this film, and it is not an eclectic art house flick reserved for Documentary buffs by any means. This is the art of filmmaking at its finest, and director Chris Smith succeeds where Borchardt had failed so many times before in completing the true NORTHWESTERN, with Mark as his star.
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