Adam Rifkin is such a fascinating filmmaker. He's a director whose name probably isn't recognized by a large percentage of the mainstream, who wouldn't know what to expect from "an Adam Rifkin film" unless you said "the guy who wrote Mousehunt and Underdog." But if those same people expecting Mousehunt were to sit down and watch almost any movie directed by Rifkin, they would get much more than they bargained for. Never has that been more true than with his latest, Shooting the Warwicks.
Things escalate quickly.
Rikin has been experimenting with how he tells his stories for years now, whether it's the moc doc Welcome to Hollywood or Look, a feature film told completely from the perspective of security cameras (and which, in a reversal of how Shooting the Warwicks came to be, began life as a film before being adapted into a TV series). Shooting a movie like a hidden camera reality series isn't anything new, but the wrinkle that the participants are unaware of the cameras creates echoes of Look. It's entirely appropriate for the story he's telling, though I do have to wonder exactly what it is that he's satirizing. The stuff about merciless TV producers and executives who don't care about ruining lives as long as they get good ratings is very on the nose and has been done too many times to really have an impact at this point. But I suspect there's more going on in Shooting the Warwicks, which uses the heavy-handed reality TV satire to sneak in some savage commentary about the rot and the unspoken hypocrisy at the center of the American family.
While his past works of anarchy have been more of the "party" variety -- we're meant to laugh at the gross-out gags and side with the characters who orchestrate chaos, even when it's a little mouse -- there's very little that's fun about Shooting the Warwicks. There are moments when I can imagine Rifkin cackling off camera, tickled at just how far he has pushed a given moment, but the gross-out gags in this one aren't played for laughs...except maybe for how excessive they are. While this one completely fits into his filmography, it also feels unlike anything he's made before. After more than two decades as a filmmaker, he still has the ability to surprise me. Shooting the Warwicks surprised me.