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Hit Record

****
2020

‘If you like the mockumentry vibe of Best in Show or A Mighty Wind, the cringe-worthy comedy of Shug’s story should bring a smile to your face…’

I’m not sure the terms ‘mockumentary’ was used before Spinal Tap’s Marty Di Bergi coined it, but since then, it’s becomes a sub-genre in its own right, beloved of stars keen to put on a self-indulgent gang show, Exhibit A would be The Return of Bruno by Bruce Willis. Ethan Cvitanic’s comedy feature Hit Record may not have established star-power on its side, but it does have a wry and wicked sense of humour, skewing music-business tropes that are ripe for making fun of. If you’ve noticed how easily songs and videos go viral in movies, and wondered how real that scenario is, Hit Record has the answer; it doesn’t happen like that in reality.

Co-writer Shug Cvitanic plays aspiring teenage singer Shug; an opening scene sees her invite the camera-crew into her bedroom, and there’s a deliberate ambiguity as to the motives of all involved. Is Shug trying to use sex to sell her music? Who is exploiting who? But once you’ve heard Shug’s music, it’s clear that no amount of sex could make a hit record here, but that doesn’t stop her from trying her best to make it big on her musical merits. Shug signs up her best friend Dawn (Alex Hopper) as her manager, despite Dawn having little experience or enthusiasm for the project. She lays down a couple of tracks, takes a few musical wrong turns, and ends up pretty much where she started, but worse off for the experience. And each indignity, each humiliation, is captured by the stoic documentary film-crew who follow her from studio to bar to Dawn’s caravan. Having refused to join her pastor father on a trip to Haiti, Shug finds herself a little too reliant on Dawn, and their friendship is tested by Shug’s brazen ambition, with is in inverse proportion to her talent.

Hit Record would be worth recommending to those who enjoyed Jim Cummings’ Thunder Road; it’s got the same post-Office doubling down on excruciating self-humiliation, and there’s also plenty of genuinely funny side-swipes. I’d certainly be keen to hear more from the rappers that Shug auditions for her band; remembering their remarkable acts has kept me amused for days. Songs like Balla or Fuzzy Feelin’ are impressively awful, and yet Shug remains a sympathetic study of a delusional artist; we’ve all known a character in our lives whose grasp way exceeds their reach.

Comedies are rare, and funny comedies are even rarer; Hit Record really does have some really good laughs in it, and should be recommended as a rare commodity in 2021. For Shug and Ethan Cvitnic, it’s an auspicious calling card, and one that demands to be sought out wherever it lurks in the arcane streaming system we have today; it’s £3.49 on Amazon Uk at time of writing. If you like the mockumentary vibe of Best in Show or A Mighty Wind, the cringe-worthy comedy of Shug’s story should bring a smile to your face.

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    • Funnily enough, Whiplash is often on my mind, and particularly when reviewing Sound of Metal, which has a mentor/nemesis relationship which really harks back to the one in Whiplash. Both of these films may be of interest if you like that vibe.

  1. That is a VERY young face in that clip up there, is that our star? I mean, I guess I expect silly dreams from the young. It is rather interesting that we have this kind of mocking “expose” alongside the endless advice guru industry that basically tells us to never give up dreams, and to self promote like your name is Trump.
    Most successful folks have no idea the reason for their success as it’s based on virtually nothing, especially in our modern “celebrity” and “influencer” culture. Do nothing status successes. Where should our efforts lie? With teh kids who think they’re going to earn a living streaming themselves playing first person shooters, or with actually applying ourselves to respected investment that just as often doesn’t pay off? Heady thoughts are brought to the surface by these ideas.

    • Good comment. Saw Beast Beast recently, which also makes a point of depicting a teenager crushed by lack of social media hits. The notion that these things are helpful platforms to success is treated as a given in film and tv, and I get the impression that today’s youth are being had. The Trump comparison is a good one too; all the self-promotion got him to the top, but didn’t help him overcome the fact that he was an incompetent blow-hard who couldn’t hold down a regular job. I think the subject of Hit Record is exactly the kind of young person who believes because she’s been encouraged to believe that such belief will get you where you want to go. The reality is somewhat different…

      • Exactly. We have this tendency to follow the winning outliers with our hopes, rather than backing ourselves up for the seeming inevitable reality of 99% of us never achieving much in the way of “success” (in the financial/celebrity way). Trump represents, most of all, that fruitless fantasizing that infects so many blue-collar dreamers. His star is based entirely on the ‘American’ con (and he’s not the only PT Barnum style lout, he’s just less aware of himself than earlier variations). At the same time though, especially in hard times, our self-help industry circles the drain with all manner of utterly useless encouragement and self-blaming. Youtube has endless stock trading gurus who all say the same BS, you just gotta buy the right stock that’s on the rise! Oh! Thank you!
        anyway, we probably need more of these sorts of stories, perhaps done less for humor.

        • Agreed. YouTube is a business, not a lottery; the videos they highlight are usually for a reason ie they’ve bought out the rights. It’s very hard for something self-promotional to go viral without some kind of synergy. But for two decades, we keep seeing movies where a video posted, then the next day, ten millios hits! I guess they skip the bit where YouTube buy the rights for pennies and choose to promote it….it’s all a big lie, and unfortunately, people get hurt because of it…

  2. Sounds embarrassing to me. I don’t do second hand embarrassment, so I think this is a pass.

    Glad there were no dynamites and anuses in this review…

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