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.