FILM REVIEW: Christopher Plummer in ‘The Man in the Chair’

By Ray Bennett

There are not many good movies about making movies because the moviemakers tend to take everything far too seriously and forget that it’s only a movie. It’s all the more pleasing then that journeyman director Michael Schroeder (“Cyborg 2,” “Cyborg 3”) has come up with a small gem about making pictures titled “Man in the Chair.”

The Man in the Chair poster x325It’s far-fetched and sentimental, but it has a savvy sense of the industry and enormous charm. Christopher Plummer is terrific as a cranky old retired gaffer who helps a likeable and ambitious movie-struck kid (Michael Angarano) make a student film. M. Emmet Walsh as a washed-up screenwriter and Robert Wagner as a wealthy producer are also in good form.

The movie won the American Spirit Award, given to a unique indie feature made outside mainstream Hollywood, at the 22nd annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival, in February. It also screened in the Generation14 Plus section at the Berlinale.

Upcoming dates in the United States include the AFI Dallas International Film Festival (March 30, 31) and the Method Fest Independent Film Festival in Calabasas CA on March 31, as part of a Plummer tribute, and April 3. There’s no release yet planned for the United Kingdom but I saw it at a screening in London and reviewed it for The Hollywood Reporter. Here’s how it begins:

LONDON – There’s a lot of wishful thinking in Michael Schroeder’s “Man in the Chair,” a ramshackle but likeable story of a movie-mad L.A. kid who gets a bunch of old-timers from the motion picture retirement home to help him make a student film.

The serious topic of neglect of the aged is given a moving examination but the picture is really about wish fulfillment as a neighborhood Valley youngster competes with a well-off rival to see who can make the best short film in a school competition.

The structure is conventional but movie buffs will enjoy all the film references and the strong sense of being among industry insiders. Committed performances by a good cast topped by Christopher Plummer, M. Emmet Walsh and Robert Wagner will help the film thrive at festivals and art houses. It should also do well on DVD.

Plummer has a fine time as a cantankerous retired gaffer named Madden who we see in a flashback being given the nickname Flash by Orson Welles on the set of “Citizen Kane.” He’s a spry old guy living comfortably in a well-appointed industry nursing home, having belonged to a good union, as he points out.


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