Winnebago Man Reviews
Winnebago Man is an interesting enough documentary, in that we get to see the person behind the viral video. "Going viral" is a term we hear all the time now, but it has never really been anything I concern myself with. Honestly, I don't give a fuck if someone is playing with a sword, trying to do a backflip, or cussing up a storm. There's just more important stuff in the world. So I'm with Jack Rebney on that one, as he to, fails to understand the love for the video. Honestly, I don't even find the outtakes funny. Why I liked the movie to the extent I did, is because I grew to like I guy I really didn't know anything about or really care about.
A filmmaker who was obsessed for years over the viral video makes a documentary on the man himself. He wants to know if the guy is truly as angry as it appears. Is he mad about the publicity? Does he care that people find his rants amusing? Who is this guy? These are all questions the film asks, and like a good filmmaker, he answers them through his subject.
If there's anything we can take from a film like Winnebago Man... actually there is nothing I can truly take away from it. I didn't learn anything about the human condition or about anything that truly matters. I just learned that Jack Rebney is a pretty cool old guy that loves to swear and thinks Dick Chaney is the worst human being to ever live. That's enough for me. This little documentary did enough to entertain me, while presenting a story I can't say I really care about.
A lot of fun to watch, and surprisingly one of the better documentaries to come out in a long while.
Up until that point, it's frustrating because he hasn't become a calm man, he's become quite a sad hermit, the worst definition of Thoreau's Walden.
Whoa, where'd that come from?
The narrative of Rubney eventually explains that his dream was to be announcer like Walter Conkite and he did work for CBS which did not work-out, which brings him to doing ads for Winnebago. The point where his life went from a vocation to a job. Like most people who live long enough it was a job that if the twenty year-old version of himself would kick his ass. On top of it his camera man and intern are just peachy with their future and cannot see the down turn in the over serious Rubney do they just taunt him.
The movie is really built more about Ben Steinbauer's narrative of trying to gel all the footage into a decent movie that says something. The final 15-20 minutes he actually succeed in pulling it together. The negative gaps in the plot are as interesting as the plot ie why won't Rubney talk about his past.
If your young and at the point where your career looks like stepping stones to your dream, you will not get or enjoy this movie. The rest of us will just enjoy the laughing with commiseration.
Topically Winnebago Man falls into the category of "mildly amusing". But unlike most things that are mildly amusing, Winnebago Man offers some poignant insights both into the culture that consumes videos on youtube AND the people who are the unwitting stars.
The success of Winnebago Man as a movie stems largely from the man himself: Jack Rebney. He's a fascinating guy with a voice of gold (easy to see why he was hired to do industry videos) and his screen time drives the final 2/3s of the movie.
It's hard not to look at weird direction decisions, however, and dream of the film that could have been. The most egregious sin is starting the documentary out with a clip of the real Jack Rebney, something that would be better suited AFTER the bluff, not before.
More so, he turns out to be someone who once took a tough stand upon his ethical principles, resulting in the life changes that eventually deposited him into this third-rate promo gig one humid summer in Iowa. And into his bouts of frustration and cursing that are, in part, the struggle with his internal demons tormenting him for having once taken that tough stand. Know now why he truly curses with anger.
And yet he also curses as a form of endearment, having embraced his character flaw, turning it into a compliment-of-sorts for those for whom he cares. As the film progresses, the viewer also gets to see Winnebago Man wrestling with his posterity, coming to terms with the fact that, as a 76 year old man, this viral video - not his other life works - will be how he will be best remembered.
The viewer may well conclude that the world was short-changed, that this man did not have the opportunity to be remembered for, to have accomplished, more.