Showbiz Kids Jul 18, 2020 14:08:58 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Jul 18, 2020 14:08:58 GMT -5
Showbiz Kids (2020)
Directed by: Alex Winter
Directed by: Alex Winter
The late Disney Channel star Cameron Boyce in the documentary Showbiz Kids.
How many times must we hear the phrase "money can't buy happiness" before we actually believe it? Often we glance at the headlines of another celebrity or musician dying from drugs or suicide at a tender age and we question how they could discard everything for substances when they were on "top of the world." Will there ever come a point when we realize — or at least question — whether or not fame is all that it's cracked up to be?
The documentary Showbiz Kids does a commendable job of humanizing the stories of child actors who are now in their 30s and 40s still finding their way after growing up quickly in front of the camera.
We open by learning via title-card that 20,000 child actors audition in Hollywood in a given year; 95% don't book a single gig. One of the prime-times for these auditions is during "pilot season," where a litany of new projects commence shooting the first episode of what its filmmakers hope to the next successful program in America. While we follow Melanie Slater as she taxis her aspiring actor son Marc (who seems suspiciously apathetic to the world of acting) to his auditions, along with another little girl named Demi Singleton, who has landed a handful of big stage projects, we touch base with several familiar faces. Among them: Henry Thomas (Elliott in E.T.), Jada Pinkett-Smith, Wil Wheaton (Stand By Me), Mara Wilson (Matilda, Mrs. Doubtfire), and Evan Rachel Wood (Thirteen).
The oldest performer featured in the film is Diana Serra Cary, who just passed at 101-years-old in February. Cary was a silent film actor as a little girl, who admits early on that she had no conception of a conventional childhood and for a time thought all children went the route of performing. Her acting career stalled by the time she was seven-years-old, compounded by her envious actor father who broke their mutual contract. By 15, she says, she felt like a senior citizen.
Thomas has no shame in admitting the first time he saw E.T. at an audition, he peed his pants in fright, while Milla Jovovich (who I shamefully forgot was a child actress before becoming the face of the Resident Evil film franchise) states she felt pressured to be an actress because her mother had starred in pictures when she lived in the Soviet Union. Although Wheaton made lasting memories on the set of Stand By Me, he has choice words for both his abusive mother and film critic Roger Ebert after both him and his counterpart Gene Siskel blasted him in The Buddy System, which predated the iconic Rob Reiner drama.
Winter threads the needle by allowing these actors a clinical presentation, permitting them to openly and candidly discuss their honest feelings on performing at such a tender age. This grants us some thoughtful musings, such as when Mara Wilson equates being recognized in public to the awkward wave of emotions one experiences when the servers at a restaurant gather to sing "Happy Birthday" for you. It's an appreciated gesture, sure, but it's nonetheless uncomfortable and inexplicably draws attention to you. Former Disney Channel staple Cameron Boyce's — who sadly passed away in 2019 due to an epileptic seizure — statement on how the masses feel like they know who you are when you don't even know yourself in conjunction with him stating how he feels he's beginning the second act of his career remind you how tomorrow is promised to no one.
Of course Winter would be remiss if he didn't address the abuse and pedophilia in Hollywood that has just recently been coming to light. A victim of molestation as a teenager himself, Winter highlights how fellow child actor Corey Feldman became a whistleblower of sorts for the pedophilia ring in Hollywood as early as 2011. However, with each passing headline, and even a recent kerfuffle of a documentary screening, Feldman reveals himself to be more of a showman interested in profiting off the information as opposed to torching the men responsible. In one of the film's saddest moments, Wheaton discusses his friendship with the late River Phoenix, which forged on set of Stand By Me. The two remained close until Phoenix started dabbling into drugs. Wheaton believed that once River was done with "that phase," the two would become close again. River Phoenix died from a drug overdose in 1993.
Over the last several years, Alex Winter has made a name for himself on the documentary circuit, directing thoughtful films revolving around the internet's fertile history. There was Downloaded, which dealt with the creation and lasting legacy of Napster, Deep Web: The Untold Story of Bitcoin and the Silk Road, which took an in-depth look at the Bitcoin boom, and more recently, The Panama Papers. Winter has too become a staunch advocate for internet freedom and digital privacy rights. It's a bit of a surprise he doesn't inject his own voice into Showbiz Kids given the fact the material at hand would ostensibly be the most relatable for him. Like a conscious filmmaker, he leans back and opens the floor for others not in the same position as him. The end result is another linear yet insightful documentary.
NOTE: Showbiz Kids will air on HBO channels throughout the month of July, and is presently available to stream on HBO MAX.
Directed by: Alex Winter.