Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon
It’s very easy to question the motives of someone that does something that appears to be selfless. Sometimes it feels that we have all become entirely cynical, expecting the worst from people and not really giving them the chance to prove otherwise. That was the mentality I had in place when I sat down to watch Mike Myers’ directorial debut, Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon, a film that documents the life of famed talent manager and allround entrepreneur.
One of the first things that becomes apparent when watching the film is that Shep Gordon is a good guy. Not only that, he is almost angelic in nature. He has essentially floated through life, giving hope to the meek, food to the blind and glasses to the homeless. And this is when the cynical side of my personality comes to the fore – can one have a career working with so much talent in Hollywood and still be genuinely a good guy?
That, for me, is problematic. Maybe he is a great guy and maybe the countless relationships he has had have all ended on amicable terms; and maybe he has never been less than saintly when negotiating contracts; and maybe he has always done what is best for his clients and not focused on his own financial gain; maybe all of those things are true. But if they are true, then what was the point of this movie? Of course, not every film has to show conflict and not every character has complicated good and bad tendencies, but if we are just being shown a portrait of a fairly successful and nice manager, then who cares?
And that is the biggest problem of the film – why we should we care about Shep Gordon? Some of the stories are entertaining in a name-droppy type way (and some are more problematic, like when he suggests one of his clients was crippled because of bad karma), but it’s never really enough to justify the endeavour. Myers has essentially made a film about a guy that represented a few fairly big acts and a whole host of fairly small ones. Why? It seems because he likes him. And most of the time the stories of awesomeness are coming directly from Shep himself. An unreliable narrator Kundera would be proud of.
There is also a distinctly amateur feel about the production. A lot of the time the interviewees are staring straight down the camera as they regale us with Shepadotes. This feels somewhat odd and you almost feel that the iconic opening music for This Is Your Life could boom out at any moment; it feels like we are witnessing an ‘I-love-you-man’ moment between Shep and his buddies. Most of the stories come from Shep himself and at times It feels like an Alan Partridge memoir – I just waited for our unreliable narrator to say ‘needless to say, I had the last laugh.’ There were also irritating and irritatingly constant recreations, like people miming words along with the anecdote that is being told or the cringetastic scene where Sly Stallone acts out a fantasy they had just discussed. It all very much felt like a school kid doing an art project on their dad, because, you know, their dad is awesome!
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