Chasing October is an intriguing piece of work; it describes itself as a "docu-comedy", and films that play with our perceptions of "reality" are a genre I always find fascinating. [Even when they suck, as in Blair Witch] The question here is, how much the Matt Liston shown here is genuine, and how much he is playing a part - as in, say, something like Seinfeld. The movie depicts his obsession with the Chicago Cubs and his quest to get the team the World Series win which has eluded them for nearly a century. And when I say, obsession, I mean it: this guy is on a par with Jimmy Fallon's character in Fever Pitch; the film's most painful moment is probably when his girlfriend asks the nightmare question feared by all fans: which he loves more, her or the Cubs?
And that rom-com is probably the nearest touchstone here, for its mix of passions. Though as we all know, the Cubs season did not end in the glorious way experienced by the Red Sox in 2004, but in Steve Bartman's grab of a foul ball, and the Marlins comeback after the Cubs were within five outs of the World Series. The film is at its best when capturing the glorious, unashamed nature of pure, devoted fandom, as when Liston visits a bank, seeking a $20m loan to boost the Cubs payroll. Or seeking to interview the head of the Tribune Company, owners of the Cubs, whose penny-pinching ways are blamed by many fans for the team's failures. More of this kind of Borat-like confrontational style would have been welcome.
But there are a bunch of notes which don't quite ring true: for instance, the avowed poverty of the character as he makes his documentary. This doesn't quite match the expensive soundtrack, covering everything from Pearl Jam to Frank Sinatra, or the copious footage of games, which can't have been cheap either. While most of the people involved are playing themselves (his real parents, for example), they sometimes come across as forced or obviously scripted. Though the moments which work, are often brilliant, as when his girlfriend discovers the $2,000 bill from a jeweler isn't quite for what she thought...
For a non-Cubs fan - or even from a non-baseball point of view, - there's plenty to enjoy, because fanatical fandom is much the same, regardless of the color of style of shirt it wears. We may not have the same degree of desperate self-loathing as Cubs fans, who judging by their comments here, have grown to feel much the same way about their team as a badly-treated dog feels about its owner. But the hopes, and their cruel dismantling by the hard facts of a baseball season, is something more or less familiar to 29 teams every season. And it's that which made this film resonate with me.
[Chasing October opens today at the Harkins Camelview]