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Cook Larry Lang is exactly the kind of gentleman that this critic would very well be glad to become in his later years. He’s hard working, he’s attentive, he’s shy, he’s humble… and he makes some incredible onion rings. There’s certainly a story to be told around him and those in his community who notice his service and fried snacks. The Ringmaster, however, isn’t exactly that story. Too bad, but not “bad.”
The documentary - which one could mistake for a scripted tale of errors - is focused on the efforts of Zachary Capp who, after receiving an inheritance, chooses to pursue his dream of filmmaking. At almost every turn, friends and crew alike try to make suggestions on how his grand onion ring production should go about, from subject handling to story length. Indeed, they’re all right in different ways, but Zachary pushes head on his way. Larry and his rings, the original topics of the film, quickly becomes the setting for Capps’ ego, lined with one too many good intentions.
Ringmaster feels often like a rough DVD bonus feature, with some harsh edits and occasional off beat pacing. Still, it’s never dull, nor does it ever favor just entertainment over fascination. It hosts both qualities, even as things don’t turn out the way Capp wanted. Interestingly, he’s not the credited director here, making this a movie about the making of an almost movie about onion rings.
Capp pulls out all the tricks for Larry who, most obviously, is uncomfortable with this attention. Through each escalation, things get more and more cringey, as Larry’s anxiety can be felt through the screen and under our skin. Zachary Capp certainly wanted to help Larry and the Lang Family, but didn’t think of any consequences or complications, at least not before acting. Thankfully, he’s no Troy Duffy, and this is no Overnight. In that behind the scenes blunder on the director of The Boondock Saints, we see a bartender bring out his unearned maniacal nature to the forefront, hurting those closest to him with every move.
Again, Capp is no Duffy. We do see lessons learned, or at least acknowledged. The man is a recovering gambling addict, and this problem likely came out in his unfortunately too close documentation. Ringmaster is a consistently resonant mishap madcap of mistakes and moments. We don’t technically root for Capp to complete his goal of a happy ending, just for him to get real and maybe reel too.
Thankfully, he may have seen all of that through. Just via someone else’s movie.
The Others of 2020:
12 Hour Shift
The Last Blockbuster
A Ghost Waits
The Top Faves of 2020:
VHYes - Inventive. Wonderfully absurd and tender. “Found-footage” goes beyond aesthetic and into the mind’s eye dreamscape.
Da 5 Bloods - Delroy Lindo for the win, all the way. The trailer alone was award worthy.
The Twentieth Century - Acid on ice! Guy Maddin took a vacation, and some stranger ones came in. A fantastic phantasmagoria.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things - Them car conversations a good movie make.
Time - Such beautiful editing and cinematography. Will this be shown in schools?
Bacurau - Should also be shown in schools, but maybe more urgently. It takes a village, for sure.
Alone - Resourceful to the max, tense without limit. As solid and perfect as a movie can be.
Soul - Dare to challenge, dare to take on the abstract.
She Dies Tomorrow - Challenges too. Dares too. Abstracts a bit more. On the spot.
Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets - One last hurrah as a world ends. Jukebox tunes, memories, anecdotes, and spirits. Hearts will flutter.
Happy New Year!