‘The Last Film Festival’: Film Review

Courtesy of Monterey Media
Jacqueline Bisset and Dennis Hopper in 'The Last Film Festival'
A slapdash would-be satire.

Dennis Hopper and Jacqueline Bisset topline a comedy that was filmed in 2009 and completed with help from crowdfunding.

In theory, it could’ve been a contender: vets of the Hollywood and indie scenes spoofing the movie biz in a comedy set at a fledgling film festival. In practice, though, The Last Film Festival is stuck in a loop of painfully silly humor, with stars Dennis Hopper and Jacqueline Bisset offering glimmers of the satire that might have been.

Being promoted as Hopper’s final screen work, the film arrives in theaters seven years after it was shot. The actor’s 2010 death occurred before director Linda Yellen could begin postproduction, and she eventually launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise completion funds. In this case, though, completion is strictly a technical matter. The desultory finished product would be unwatchable if not for the grounding presence of the two leads and JoBeth Williams’ supporting turn.

Hopper plays Nick Twain, a once-mighty producer whose latest project is a piece of pretentious dreck called Barium Enigma. That nicely twisted title represents a higher level of wordplay than most of what passes for humor in the screenplay by Yellen and Michael Leeds. Even better, though, is Twain’s pitch-perfect description of the feature as a “postapocalyptic thrill ride with an environmental message.”

Whatever Enigma is, it’s about to be showcased at the only film fest in the world that would give it the time of day, a first-time event somewhere in Ohio that’s called the O’hi Film Festival — perhaps a dig at rustic-tony Ojai, a SoCal industry fave. An impressive aspect of the movie is its use of New York City locations (including my high school alma mater!) to create a Midwestern small-town vibe, however patronizing.

Descending on this Nowheresville, besides Nick, are the movie’s arrogant director, B. Bratt Jung (Doug Mand), a gum-chewing junior agent (Joseph Cross) and the “talent”: heartthrob ZZ (Agim Kaba), starlet Chloe (Katrina Bowden) and Nick’s ex, Claudia, who happens to be the movie’s chief investor and who’s played by Bisset with an excitable mix of vanity and Italian diva accent.

The winks at showbiz desperation and pompousness range from the tired to the paltry as the glamour contingent meets the wannabes. Held in the local high school, the festival is headed by the town’s undertaker (Chris Kattan, not well served), whose name just happens to be — are you sitting down? — Harvey Weinstein. Snippets of competing films offer a range of genre parodies that all miss the mark. Among the offending filmmakers is Jermaine Johnson (Donnell Rawlings), a faux-disabled character who takes the movie completely off the rails, while a subplot involving a trench-coat-clad stalker (Leelee Sobieski) goes nowhere.

However sorry the material, Hopper, looking handsome and elegant, is fully there as Nick, whether he’s fulminating, glad-handing or seducing the town mayor (Williams). The Last Film Festival won’t displace any favorites in his lengthy filmography, but he’s ever watchable, as is Bisset. Another yet-to-be-released showbiz satire, Orson Welles’ unfinished ’70s feature The Other Side of the Wind, is bound to offer a more satisfying “final” performance for the actor’s fans when it’s released.

Distributor: Monterey Media
Production: TLFF in association with Optimistic Productions
Cast: Dennis Hopper, Jacqueline Bisset, Joseph Cross, Chris Kattan, Donnell Rawlings, JoBeth Williams, Leelee Sobieski, Katrina Bowden, Agim Kaba, Amy Flanagan, Doug Mand
Director: Linda Yellen
Screenwriters: Linda Yellen, Michael Leeds
Producers: Linda Yellen, Bob Jorissen  
Executive producers: Andy Goldstein, Reid Nathan, Radou Moussou
Director of photography: Mauricio Rubinstein
Production designer: Timothy Whidbee
Costume designer: Kathryn Nixon
Editors: Bob Jorrisen, Steve Kraftsow
Composer: Patrick Seymour   
Casting: Antonia Dauphin, Kathleen Backel

Rated R, 90 minutes