Madness in the Method (2019)

Madness in the Method first published by SciFiNow

Jason Mewes has a problem: known almost exclusively for playing Jay to Kevin Smith’s Silent Bob in Clerks (1994) and other Smith films, he has been doomed as an actor always to play the stoner sidekick, never the star. In his directorial debut Madness In The Method he gets a chance at stardom, and at revenge upon those who have kept him on the margins. For here he plays ‘Jason Mewes’, an amalgam of his own real biography and of his established on-screen persona – and the tension between these two is also at the heart of the film, as he finally gets his own lead rôle, but seems unable to escape the sweet-natured idiocy and distinctive catchphrases associated with his most famous bit part as Jay – even when enjoying sexual rôle play with his girlfriend Carrie (Gina Carano). Meanwhile he is surrounded by other actors playing versions of themselves – Vinnie Jones, Danny Trejo, Dean Cain – who seem similarly stuck in the stereotyping of their past filmography.

In other words, this is one of those postmodern, ludic metabiopics, like Beat ‘Takeshi’ Kitano’s Takeshis’ (2005), like Bruce Campbell’s My Name Is Bruce (2007), like Mabrouk el Mechri’s JCVD (2008) and like Casey Affleck’s I’m Still Here (2010), like Kim Ki-duk’s Arirang (2011) – films that generate reflexive fictions out of our familiarity with an actor’s or filmmaker’s image. Here, desperate to break free of his own inveterate image, Jason follows the advice of his friend and former co-star Kevin (Smith) and obtains from the absurdly attractive Fernando Villareal (Jaime Camil) a very special self-help book on method acting. Despite warnings to read the book slowly, Jason mainlines it – and as he starts applying its step-by-step lessons to transforming himself into the more serious rôles required by crime dramas and horror films, he also – at first accidentally – starts actually killing people. Soon he discovers that he will do anything to get the lead part in a new ‘Oscar hopeful’ film version of The Odyssey, directed by Clerks‘ actual star Brian (Brian O’Halloran), even if that means betraying his best friends and murdering anyone who gets in his way.

Written by Dominic Burns and Chris Anastasi, Madness in the Method is an LA satire operating at the divide between actor and character. Here Dean Cain may have to to conceal his identity, like his character Clark Kent from TV’s Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1993-97), so that people do not keep confusing him with his character’s alter ego Superman, but meanwhile his co-star Teri Hatcher appears playing not herself but Jason’s agent Gina Williams. Jason wants the best of both these worlds – Cain’s celebrity, and Hatcher’s ability to find new parts – and as he pursues his cutthroat path to self-realisation and engages in hit-or-miss comic exchanges with a variety of quirky characters, the film is somehow equally sophisticated and stupid, like Robert Altman’s The Player (1992) or David Robert Mitchell’s Under The Silver Lake (2018) refashioned as a dumb-assed stoner comedy. There is indeed madness in the meta.

© Anton Bitel