The Definition of Insanity
Acting isn’t as
glamorous as Hollywood would like us to believe. For every Brad Pitt or
George Clooney who becomes a huge star there are thousands of people like
Margolis is a classic example of the term “struggling actor.” In this
self-penned and directed indie film (in collaboration with
director Frank Matter), Margolis takes a tongue in cheek look at the
extremely hard knocks of being a wannabe actor – or for that matter any type
of driven artist.
At least, I hope it is tongue in cheek.
In this mock documentary, Margolis plays a fictionalized version of himself
– even using his own name – as an actor who is constantly deluding himself
that his big break is just around the corner. The possibility of an
off-Broadway play or a new set of head shots or a meeting with an agent fuel
his determination anew constantly, only have the rug pulled out from under
him on a nearly constant basis.
This rabid determination to his craft is causing financial hardships
(Margolis refuses to take a job because he wants to be available for
auditions), marital strife (his wife is played by a very good actress named
Kelli Barnett, as far as I know she is not his real spouse) and
nearly constant humiliation.
It is said that in 2004 (the year this film was first released) the average
member of the Screen Actor’s Guild made about $5,000 a year directly from
acting jobs. That isn’t even counting the people (like Margolis – at least
according to this film) who can’t even get into the union – whether because
lack of funds for the annual dues or not having gotten the right type of
jobs to qualify.
Honestly, Margolis looks extremely familiar, though I can’t say exactly
why. His filmography lists six films made between 1996 and 2004 – only one
I had ever heard of before receiving this DVD screener and none of which I
Then again, that sense of instant recognition is vital to a character
By playing a character that is named after himself, the audience wonders how
autobiographical this film truly is. We would like to believe that the real
Margolis is showing bemusement in some of the screen Margolis’ more
desperate actions and delusions. Yet, you have to assume that Margolis does
share at least some of his fictional doppelganger’s traits – after all he is
still trying to push this film as his calling card over six years after the
film was made.
However, by finally getting a video release of his labor of love, maybe
Margolis will finally get some of those juicy roles that he so obviously
lusts after. (It shows a certain amount of nice self-awareness that his
character insists he has no interest in being a star, he just wants to be
able to work at what he loves.)
The title of the film, obviously, refers to the old Albert Einstein quote, “The
definition of insanity
is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
The fictional Margolis tenaciously ignores all the hard knocks that the
acting profession hurls his way, forever delusional in his certainty that
things are coming together for him… long after those around him have lost
all hope in his chances.
The latter scenes – in which Margolis’ obsessions start to catch up with him
– are hopefully just an artist’s imagining of the worst-case scenario
future. I’d like to believe that here, at least, the artist diverges from
his true course. After all, who was it that said that art was just real
life spiced up with periodic sexy parts?
The obsessive urge of an artist to create in the face of constant hardship
is a fascinating plotline – but honestly it is not a particularly unusual
one. Variations of this story have been told often.
The Definition of Insanity
is not the best of those films, but it is a funny and
enjoyable inside look at the psyche of the struggling actor. Hopefully it
finally will help Margolis find his great white whale of a role – or at
least the making of the movie helped him to come to terms with his
Jay S. Jacobs
on this link to purchase or rent a download of the movie: Definition of Insanity
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All rights reserved. Posted: April 9, 2010.