Jerry Seinfeld's documentary, Comedian, a film perhaps better known for its genius trailer than anything else, gets a very low profile roll-out tomorrow.
And this is probably best. While Seinfeld himself proves to be incredibly likeable as usual in the 81-minute film, the project itself comes off more as an advertisement than a true documentary. Maybe that's because the directors are the same guys who made Seinfeld's American Express commercials.
What someone should have told them, though, is that a film needs some dramatic content. Also, we should learn something about the participants.
Unfortunately, we come out of Comedians the same way we went in: laughing with Jerry and wondering who he is.
Absent, by and large, (seen just in fleeting moments) are Seinfeld's close pals, like George Wallace, Chris Rock and Paul Reiser.
But I'm told the original version of Comedian was much longer than the finished product -- by at least a good half hour. It would be great to see what landed on the cutting room floor. Maybe it will make the DVD.
But the guy who really stands out in Comedian aside from Jerry is a newcomer named Orny Adams. This comic's story seems like it was trimmed down as it went along, but Adams -- sort of a Seinfeld wannabe -- will get the most out of the film. Don't be surprised if we see an "Orny" show soon on NBC.
As for Jerry, you'll be interested to see him wrestling with new material, driving himself around town in many cars, and using the f-word a few times -- something he usually abhors. One sequence, in which he and Colin Quinn riff off the term "think tank," has the potential for becoming a classic comedy routine. And there's nothing wrong with that.
Seinfeld should now concern himself with trying to do some features, maybe light comedies or road pictures. Even if Comedian is not the best film of the year, it shows that Jerry wears well on the big screen.
They're victims of their own achievements. The cast of Friends, Cox, Schwimmer, Aniston, LeBlanc, Kudrow and Perry, is caught between wanting to move on and staying put with lots of money -- and I mean, lots of money! What a dilemma!
That was the gist of my conversation on Tuesday night with David Arquette, the affable husband of Friends star Courteney Cox. Arquette is part of a uniquely gifted ensemble cast in The Grey Zone, a new film directed by actor Tim Blake Nelson.
The Grey Zone is going to blow not just a few minds as it unspools across the country this month. A Holocaust film based on real stories, Zone is part Beckett, part Shakespeare and part Schindler's List. Tremendous performances, confident direction and beautifully gritty cinematography are going to make it a very talked about film.
Arquette's previous work in the Scream movies and in phone company commercials doesn't prepare you for this. He is just one of several Zone actors who turned themselves inside out for this movie. Mira Sorvino, abandoning at last the ditzy blonde typecasting, is amazing. Both Harvey Keitel and Steve Buscemi will be cited for their standout work as well, with some awards for each of them a possibility.
Tim Blake Nelson, known from Cherish and O Brother, Where Art Thou?, is a slight guy who kind of resembles Bart Simpson in real life. With a hint of redneck in his approach, you wouldn't associate him with the Holocaust. But his grandparents survived the Auschwitz death camp, and Nelson grew up as part of the small but influential Jewish community in, of all places, Tulsa, Oklahoma.
He told me he based The Grey Zone story on tales he heard in his family, along with writings of Primo Levi and the real life story of a Jewish doctor who survived Auschwitz by working for the Nazi regime there.
The Grey Zone may have had a small premiere, but it was chockablock with New York's movie intelligentsia. Both Coens, Joel and Ethan, were on hand, as was John Turturro. Oscar-winner Holly Hunter came to cheer on former co-star Keitel (from The Piano), and none other than Rosie O'Donnell put in an appearance.
Rosie, it was pointed out, got out from working with German publisher Gruner + Jahr at the right moment. Yesterday, G+J's parent company, Bertelsmann, finally apologized for their complicity with the Nazi's during World War II. It took them 50 years to own up to it, but I guess better late than never.
"I would have quit anyway after I heard about that," Rosie said. And I'm sure there are more than a few people at the American subsidiaries of Bertelsmann -- from Random House to Arista Records -- who probably feel the same way.
Rosie, by the way, had our little section of the Sunshine Landmark theatre in stitches before the lights went down. When I asked her why she had missed the premiere of Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine, she replied in mock horror: "Do you know what it's like to have a pregnant girlfriend? Do you know? Everything you've heard is true!"
But back to Arquette. "Yes," he says of Courteney and crew, "they're ready to go. You can't imagine how hard it is to do that show and keep up the quality." But it won't go on much longer, Arquette said. No chance that the Friends will wind up being on-air grandparents. (Ross' fictitious son must be at least 8 by now.)
There followed much agreement about the low standards on the rest of TV, which turned out be an ironic conversation. "Saying that, I'm developing my own series now!" Arquette laughed. Well, that's Hollywood right there in a nutshell, right?
Comic actress Teri Garr has always been one of my favorite people. She was also one of David Letterman's -- she made a record number of appearances on his NBC late night show.
On Larry King Live, Garr revealed that she has MS, and that the symptoms were enough for her talent agency, William Morris, to put her in the "actress protection program." In other words, no work..
This explains her absence from big and small screens over the last decade. But it's not an acceptable answer. Garr is one the smartest, sexiest, sharpest actresses ever. She's heads and tails, as they say, above most of the people schlepping around Hollywood. Let's hope her candor works, and that someone else smart puts her in a quality TV series -- if there is such a thing.