Last year, I took an improv acting class. For the final, we had to get up on stage and do ten minutes of anything we wanted, and I decided to perform “The Sound of Music in Ten Minutes” by playing all of the characters and singing bits from almost every song. Overall, there were some fantastic performances and there were some not-so-fantastic performances. And then…there was Lisa*. She was a tall, gangly girl, who decided to grace us with an interpretive dance.
Lisa is not a dancer.
Her music of choice was a strangely dark techno piece that was literally ten minutes of the same 8 counts. She began with a Mary Catherine Gallagher-esque pose followed by robotic, finger-spread hand movements. In the middle, she threw in two continuous minutes of running back and forth across the stage in a frightened manner (she was being chased?), and her routine ended just as it started, only sweaty and out of breath.
Have you ever seen something so amazingly tragic, that you thank your lucky stars you were allowed to witness it? That’s how I felt that day in class. Moments like that are incredibly rare, and they bring a certain overwhelming joy that cannot be understood through words. If you’ve never achieved that joy, and you have a feeling that you might not be able to achieve it in the future, don’t feel too bad. Your inability says something positive about your character, because in order to truly understand the joy, you have to have the capacity to genuinely revel in somone else’s unknown failure.
Is it mean? Absolutely. Do I care? Nope.
Sunday night, I was lucky enough to experience that feeling all over again when I attended a movie premiere for a motivational documentary called The Compass**. The event was held at the Grove in Anaheim, and I had very high hopes going in. The producers, writers, director, etc. all got up on stage before the showing and talked about how the film was “going to make [me] cry – but in a good way! I promise!” I believed them. I’m kind of a sap, and if anyone in that room was going to cry at the film, it probably would be me. I couldn’t have been more wrong (unless you consider tears from holding back laughter as actual crying, “but in a good way”).
If Christopher Guest decided to mock The Secret, it would look something like this film.
First, there was a ridiculous panel of “experts.” There’s this guy, who looks like Kevin Nealon when he speaks, this guy, who co-wrote The Secret, this guy, who must have been high when they made the film, and this couple, who were given the title “Neuro Psycho-Emotional Researchers.”
Then there were these ridiculous motivational catch phrases, to name only a few:
- “IN action is still AN action”
- “You don’t get in life what you want, you get what you are.”
- “You have a clear idea of the mountaintop, and then you have the hike.”
- “Deal with what you’re growing through – not going through – growing through.”
- “When you hear a disempowering voice (in your head), say ‘thank you for sharing,’ and move on.”
And to top it all off, there was only one “actor” in the film, and he played the role of “the Traveler.” This was how the filmmakers decided to visually represent all of the ideas expressed by the “experts.” The actor’s name is Perk. Just Perk. And he was terrible. Though how good can you really be when given that material? I will say this: Perk was seated near me and he laughed at himself more than I did. Nice to know that he has a good sense of humor about himself.
All in all, I recommend this film for those looking for great comedic material, but for no one else. I wouldn’t want you to suffer that kind of pain. In fact, I’m going to save you all the time and effort by telling you in 28 words what the 2-hour film told me:
Everyone has an internal compass, and if you point it in the direction you want your life to go and stay on your own path, you will succeed.
*Her name is not actually Lisa. I would like to say that her name was changed to protect her identity, but the truth is, I just don’t remember…
**Watch the trailer. Seriously. If you’re half as cynical as I am, you’ll find the humor immediately.