A Complete History of My Sexual Failures
It's not often that the funniest and most outrageous film around is a documentary, but Chris Waitt's toe-curling confessional is Borat without the camouflage, a fearless self-exposť bound to inspire strong reactions across the board.
Waitt is a lanky unkempt sadsack in the Mackenzie Crook mould; disheveled, a bit gormless-looking, but smart enough to use that to his own advantage. He's very funny.
Waitt describes himself as a failed rock musician, which may be a bit disingenuous. He's also a failing actor and filmmaker (he and Henry Trotter created the recently revived Fur TV four years ago, and he was Dave in Hot Fuzz).
Plucking the fluff from his navel, he can't think of a better project than a mission to discover why he's such a loser in love. With that in mind, he sets out to interview all his ex-girlfriends and ask them what's wrong with him. Sounds easy - except they all turn him down. 'Every time I come away from the phone after speaking with you it makes me want to vomit,' is one of the more graphic rejections, but the sentiment is widespread.
Changing tack, Chris decides to find a new girlfriend. His producer sets him up on a date with one of her friends. When that doesn't go so well he turns to Myspace.
Frankly, it's not hard to see where Chris is coming up short. His flat is a tip. He has Russ Meyer posters on the walls. He dresses like a scruff and he's always late. He's self-obsessed but unmotivated and lazy. Apparently his personal hygiene leaves something to be desired as well.
All this is plain for anyone to see, and it's a toss up whether Waitt is putting it on a bit for a laugh. He even gets his mum to come down and tidy up for him.
As long as he's the butt of the joke the movie scores regular easy giggles. The suspicion that the whole show might collapse around his ears at any moment makes it all the more authentic. But there's a passive-aggressive side to his self-deprecation, and some of the participating 'girlfriends', new and old, seem genuinely angry and upset - and might easily regret putting themselves back in his trust. For some viewers, the comedy may be soured by the uneasy feeling that this guy really is a bit of a jerk.
On the other hand, he's certainly game for a laugh. An encounter with a professional dominatrix is wincingly painful to watch. And the evening he takes a fistful of Viagra is much funnier than a similar gag in Chris Rock's movie I Think I Love My Wife. (Albeit with unexpected side effects.)
It's got to be said, much of this 'documentary' appears to be staged. Certainly there are many sequences that cut between two or more camera angles. Possibly Waitt had two cameramen with him, but it seems unlikely; the credits list a DP and one camera operator and Waitt gives the impression that much of the time he's recording a video diary.
Does it matter? Not really, except to confirm the impression of many of the women in his life that this man is not reliable.
The most poignant interview is with his longest girlfriend, who is now living in Scotland and is settling down with a family. Suddenly Chris seems genuinely pathetic, and not just for effect.
Writing about Complete History' from the Sundance film festival I suggested that it would be perfect raw material for a Judd Apatow comedy. Apparently Apatow has caught up with the movie and liked it a lot. Watch this space.
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