Living In Oblivion

on July 14, 1995 by Christine James
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   If you've ever had the misfortune to work on a low-budget film, you will instantly recognize the characters of "Living in Oblivion," a comedic behind-the-scenes look at the making of just such a movie. The always interesting Steve Buscemi stars as beleaguered, bug-eyed, terminally tense director/visionary Nick Reve ("reve" is French for "dream," the film's central theme, used literally and figuratively). Catherine Keener is Nicole, an ingenue whose most renowned role to date is a shower scene in a Richard Gere movie. James LeGros is Chad, a shallow, egotistical, Kato-coiffed leading man who tries to commandeer the production with his lamebrain ideas. There's also Wolf (Dermot Mulroney), the Henry Rollins of cinematographers; Wanda (Danielle Von Zerneck), the high-strung and power-tripping assistant director; a perennially stoned assistant cameraman (Kevin Corrigan); and a half-witted and script-peddling gaffer (Robert Wightman).
   This comedy of errors upon errors chronicles just about everything that can go wrong--and does--on the set, and the frayed nerves, outbursts and fisticuffs that result. There are several instances in which the line between dream and reality is blurred, but it's not clear to what end. The film mostly works as an in-joke, though there are a few laugh-out-loud moments for any audience, particularly those involving a disgruntled dwarf and a purloined eyepatch. But the humor is uneven and the surrealism only partly effective, and the few attempts to make us take a personal interest in the characters fall flat; after all, they're only caricatures.    Starring Steve Buscemi, Catherine Keener, Dermot Mulroney, Danielle Von Zerneck and James LeGros. Directed and written by Tom DiCillo. Produced by Michael Griffiths and Marcus Viscidi. Comedy. A Sony Classics release. Rated R for strong language. Running time: 91 min.
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