Fearful Symmetry

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Troy's Tragedy

Troy's Tragedy

Pride before the fall – that’s Overnight in a nutshell, the rapid rise and just as rapid descent of Troy Duffy. And what a name that is, a Greek hero (well in ‘hero’ in his own eyes at least) in a Greek tragedy. An Icarus who could not survive his flight too close to the sun.

Duffy was an Irish-American barman who became an overnight sensation when he sold a script for his film The Boondock Saints in an extraordinary deal to Harvey Weinstein. Not only was he going to direct his screenplay, the band he had formed with his brother and friends would create the sound track and he would end up as co-owner (with Weinstein) of the bar he then worked in. He roped in a couple of other friends to manage the band and also make a film that would chart his rise. Overnight is the result, ending up not recording his success but documenting his fall. It was not guaranteed to go like that. Strange things have happened in the past. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck starred in their own self-scripted film, Good Will Hunting which went on to be a huge success, launching their careers.

However, once given his chance, Duffy had to deliver. And that he conspicuously failed to do. It soon becomes painfully obvious that Duffy’s ego way outstretches his ability.

He doesn’t even seem to show any love for the genre, never mind skill. He has not gone through all the knock-backs and sheer grind of a low-budget film-making apprenticeship and appears to think that everything would then simply come to him on a plate, strutting about proclaiming himself ‘Hollywood’s new hard-on’. The few times we actually see him ‘working’, he’s horrifically bad. The phone message he leaves to Kenneth Branagh about a role is almost criminally inept.

Along with Duffy the documentary makers, are exactly not brilliant filmmakers themselves and they don’t tell the whole story. We see Duffy bragging about how his coming meeting with Ewan McGregor is going to be this big Irish/Scottish piss-up. What we are not shown and that I later learned via looking into Duffy’s story on the internet, is apparently McGregor was horrified by this, expecting a professional meeting and immediately backed off from the project.

What Duffy didn’t realise was at the time it was better for producers just to buy up projects to stop the other guy having them. Weinistein had heard that New Line were interested in Duffy’s script so he pounced with an over the top, publicity-making offer. But then Weinstein, as he had done in the past, just left his choice to make his film, moving on to other things. Without help Duffy floundered.

After not getting the cast Miramax wants Duffy’s film goes into the dreaded turn-around (Weinstein cancelling the contract.)

Duffy is reduced to screaming down phones as he sees his chance starting to slide away from him. He blames other people but perhaps turning up for meetings hung-over, unshaven and dressed like a hillbilly in dungarees was not a good idea after all. He wants to a working class hero… an ordinary guy who all the other blue collar workers can look up to, to see ‘one of the us’ has made it, though his self-image is a bit confused when earlier we have see him seemingly pleased in people thinking he’s a thug.

He lives in a world of denial and fully expects the people who have rejected him to come back begging once he’s ‘made it’. The cut-aways to the rest of his gang during the meetings show longer and longer faces.

Look mean

Look mean

But he has another chance! The film gets picked up and actually made (but with a much lower budget) and the band get resigned and get to make their album. Unfortunately they take the film to Cannes and there’s not a single buyer. The album bombs on its release. Duffy rants on with racist and sexist insults to all who he sees are behind his fall (Weinstein in particular). The ego-mania slowly turns into full-blown paranoia as Duffy, after nearly being hit by a car before the showing of the movie, thinks Weinstein is now out to kill him. The others in his circle start to look even more sick of him. The photo-shoot for the album cover – all ridiculous, dark ‘gangster’ hats and coats and Rottweilers – sees them particularly sour-faced. Especially as Duff has kept any money that came in for himself: ‘You deserve it… but you’re not going to get it’

The subject transcends the deficiencies of the film-makers. It’s fascinating to watch, but horrific to see, the monster slowly drowning. But, having such an abrasive personally, it’s hard ever to fell sorry for Duffy. It’s the rest of his gang you end up feeling sorry for. Especially his quiet brother, who seems to be the real talent in the band.

At one point a record producer wanders if any of them get any pleasure from what they are doing or, it’s implied, are they, and especially Duffy, just in it for the hope of fame, money and especially the ego trip.

In the end they all end up back where they started in dead-end jobs. Duff is filmed in secret – long having fallen out with the filmmakers – overweight, lurking outside another bar. There’s strong irony in the fact that his film became a minor cult hit on video but his contract excluded any of that revenue for him.


Written by Fearful Symmetry

July 4, 2009 at 11:46 am

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