The Outsider

(2006) *** Unrated
85 min. Green Room Films. Director: Nick Jarecki. Cast: James Toback, Woody Allen, Robert Downey Jr., Neve Campbell, Mike Tyson.
With The Outsider, documentarian Nicholas Jarecki paints a revealing portrait of filmmaker James Toback, the prickly screenwriter-director with a manic streak and a weakness for gambling. Jarecki demonstrates how Toback's films—including Fingers and Two Girls and a Guy—are largely variations on the same story: a Toback-like hero demonstrates precocious intelligence, but acts out sexually and squanders his potential in self-destructive criminal behaviors. Jarecki gets many of Toback's friends and colleagues on record about him, including Woody Allen, Brooke Shields, Jim Brown, Robert Towne, Mike Tyson, Norman Mailer, Barry Levinson, and Robert Downey, Jr., and Roger Ebert offers surprisingly cogent critical commentary. Most revealing, though, is seeing Toback navigate the rushed-to-production twelve-day shoot of his most recent film, When Will I Be Loved. Covering eight months in Toback's work life, Jarecki shows Toback at his best, using Wellesian slight-of-hand to will the shoot to completion, and at his worst, overconfidently assuming that everyone will see the genius of his finished film. The Outsider, then, is like a moving-picture version of an intriguing magazine profile, so movie buffs will happily turn the pages.
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