Review and summary of short film, Vic, directed by Sage Stallone
My first thought was, “Oh, no. I’m watching a horror film. I had no idea.” But that opening scene was a film within the film. The actor has to do something to make a living. He’s a little short on cash in the story line and takes random small parts. I was relieved to know it wasn’t going to be just special effects. But it was very special. Sage was dealing with the fleeting attention of the masses and telling us that fame, fortune, and glamor just don’t last. The public is fickle after all.
The lead actor is Clu Gulager. I admit I come to the film prejudiced; I adore Clu. He is handsome, talented, and his distinctive voice remains clear. He’s quite convincing as a man whose fame has dwindled and lives alone, forgotten, on a tight budget in a small house, with a beat up car. He rallies when he receives a script which seems promising. He’s then devastated that he has to “read” for it, something he hasn’t done in thirty years. He accepts the reading date, and then sets out to learn his lines.
He goes to the grocery store and flirts with the mature cashier (his real life wife), and discusses the strawberries at length. My experience with folks over 70 is that they really do seem to fixate on fresh strawberries, so this was probably a very reasonable conversation to write into the story. He goes back the next day to shop and looks for her, but learns she’s been dismissed. (The replacement cashier is his real-life daughter-in-law.) Then he discovers a homeless man has stolen his dog while he was in the store. This upset me; and I really wanted him to locate the dog, but he never does. The dog was his only friend.
After searching for the dog, he’s running late to the audition, but he dresses up and looks wonderful. I thought his white hair looked natural and sexy. His driving is scary bad in his rush, and you’re afraid he won’t get there on time, or at all, or unharmed. By the time the car stops, you see him transformed into something that resembles a drag queen in a man’s suit. I swear this man can play anything. He has spray tanned his face, colored his eyebrows, and his white hair to dark hair. And he’s wearing eyeliner. Now the erratic driving makes sense. It’s hysterical and pathetic! You want to laugh, but you can't because your heart is breaking for him.
Meanwhile, Sage has been cutting back and forth from the crazy drive scene to the readings that other actors are doing for this part. Those guys were so good that I worried poor Vic won’t get the part. These guys are beating him before he even arrives. I wondered how in real life they choose someone for a part, when all the candidates are so professional, yet so different. Cutting back and forth between the scenes builds the tension in the story.
He gets there and the staff has to suppress its reaction to his appearance and behavior. He’s stressed and rushed and is trying to rein it in. He is sweating and his makeup is running. Then he reads his part with Sage’s real life mother. I was shocked. Just when I thought no one could do the part better than the actors we’d already heard, all with such different interpretations, he blew them away. He was magnificent . . . to start, that is. Then sadly he broke down. All the frustration and anguish caught up with him and took over. I was crying like a baby. I wanted someone to pat him on the back, or just hold him and tell him it would be okay. The director, played by real life son Tom, has a good emotional connection to the character, but maintains his business composure. No one actually consoles Vic.
If you haven’t seen it, you think I’ve spoiled it for you by telling the story of this short film. But nothing can take the place of seeing it for yourself. It was filmed around 1999, I believe. Merriam Byrd-Netherly, the cashier, died early 2003. The film was released in 2006. It was released again in 2009 on DVD with an interview between Clu and Sage added to the end. If you get access to this DVD, don’t watch both things the same day. I did. Big mistake. It took me two days to get out of a terrible funk. Watch the film and let it sink in a few days before watching the interview. It’s too depressing to handle all at once.
There’s one more family member I haven’t mentioned. John Gulager is the cinematographer. It really was a family project for Clu and Sage. Sage had a lot of energy, a lot of insight and feeling. He passed away too early. A big age span covered the intense work on this film. I admire the Gulager family, although they often seem to have a dark side. They are talented and have a passion for their work and artistry. Vic is a remarkable result of that passion and family effort.