Netflix Pick: “I Think We’re Alone Now” is Sadly Fascinating
Tuesday, March 6, 2012 Leave a comment
This week’s Netflix Pick is oddly similar to last week’s in a few ways. Most notably, it’s a story about two troubled people from very different backgrounds finding friendship by bonding over mutual interests. Unlike “Mary and Max,” however, this film is a documentary. It follows a couple of people very much obsessed with 80’s pop star Tiffany. Why? You’ll just have to watch the film to find out. See if it’s worth your time after the break!
“I Think We’re Alone Now” follows two people that are obsessed with Tiffany to a borderline disturbing degree. One is a middle-aged man with Asperger’s named Jeff Turner, and the other is an intersex (born with both genders) woman named Kelly McCormick. The film primarily sticks with Jeff Turner as the camera joins him on his many trips to various conventions and concerts to see Tiffany in person. He hears about Kelly McCormick’s similar affinity for the pop star, and invites her to join him at a concert in Las Vegas so she can finally meet Tiffany in person.
Given the troubled nature of the documentary’s subjects, it would have been unfortunately easy for the film to come off as exploitative or unfair. Luckily, the filmmakers handily walk that line with care. Jeff, Kelly, and their friends are allowed to speak for themselves and make their case as they wish to make it. The filmmaking and editing feels very objective, managing to avoid feeling manipulative or unfair to its subjects. They are still, however, very eccentric individuals. While the film is not directed in a manner that feels unseemly, there is always an element of uncomfortable voyeurism when dealing with people being this open and honest about themselves for the camera.
That said, the documentary is a fascinating look at obsession and unrequited love. The honesty of these people about who they are and what they want is staggering. Kelly, in particular, has led a life of confusion; an understandable predicament given her identity as someone born with elements of both genders. Her love of Tiffany gives her a very definite sense of identity, even if it is terribly misguided and sadly delusional. Jeff, on the other hand, lives a lonely life of social ostracism driven by his struggle with Asperger’s. His obsessions with Tiffany and conspiracy theories causes him to experience life from a perspective ever further removed than that of Kelly’s, thereby making that experience even more delusional than hers. He truly believes he and Tiffany are the best of friends.
“I Think We’re Alone Now” is a short feature, clocking in at just about an hour in length. It’s often hard to watch, given the level of sadness inherent in its subjects and the very low production value. It’s edited in a very matter-of-fact manner, and didn’t even have a budget capable of securing the rights to any of Tiffany’s music. All of the titles are on hand-written cards and filmed on camera, lending the entire feature a very intimate, handmade style. It’s a short, simple story, but a fascinating look at how obsession and unrequited love can drive the already lonely even further away from the rest of us.
While neither of these people is likely to ever be with Tiffany, the end of the film sees them moving on to varying degrees. I suppose even the slightest progress is better than none at all, but it remains an honest portrait of two very lonely people, and all the sadness that entails.