Brother, Can You Spare a Dollar?: Film Review

Attempt to milk history for insights into today's economy suffers from almost unbelievably crude filmmaking.

Long Island-based director Thom Hoffman reveals nothing remotely insightful in this amateurish film about the Depression.

Well-intentioned but shockingly amateurish, Thom Hoffman's Brother, Can You Spare a Dollar? aims to learn what the Depression has to teach about today's crisis but uncovers nothing remotely resembling new insight. A timely subject may raise some moviegoers' interest; hopefully the curious will read a review before spending Great Recession-era wages on a ticket.

Hoffman, who narrates the film and introduces himself with a shot straight out of an '80s infomercial, spends most of the film in a term paper-like rehash of familiar Depression truisms. Using public domain footage and a roster of interviewees one guesses are all personal acquaintances, he comes to the conclusion that people learned the value of a dollar back in them days. Strangely, his research leaves him with the impression that F.D.R.'s middle name was "Deleanor."

After quickly recapping the decades between then and now (Americans got greedy in the '80s, it seems), he addresses today's economic crisis in narration that could have been written by anyone who has watched the news more than once a month for the last few years. Though he goes to a couple of academics for insight, he spends far more time with less thoughtful subjects: One roundtable of middle-aged women wallows in a ludicrous world-gone-to-hell gabfest about their Facebook- and gizmo-addicted, money-squandering children.

If Brother has any life at all beyond Hoffman's family and friends, it will likely be an unintended one: His skills when it comes to digital superimposition and green-screen are so primitive, and his judgment in using them so poor (at one point he pastes himself into footage from a '30s soup kitchen), that an editeddown clip could become YouTube's next so-bad-it's-hilarious global hit.


Production Company: Thom Hoffman Productions

Director-Screenwriter-Producer-Music-Editor: Thom Hoffman

No rating, 69 minutes