30 May 2002 | tobyjonosborne
For those unfamiliar with Matt Mitler's previous cinematic work, Cracking Up' is a fitting baptism of fire.
Matt Mitler takes the lead role in his directorial debut as the toxic and larger than life wannabe Danny Gold. Playing a struggling actor was never going to be a stretch for him, but, as the infectious stand-up comic (and struggling actor) who is destined for greater things, Mitler shines. Not only does he make the part his own; he throws in so many quirks and specialties from his private repertoire that he makes his act a tough one to follow.
In this visually-rich film, Gold is on the road to fame and finds it lined with greedy managers and execs. This results in a feeding frenzy to snap up the unsigned frantic, yet fragile, actor before he completely cracks up.' The audience is drawn into a comic-strip reality (which is indeed very real) as Danny takes us on a haunting tour of his New York hangouts, tempestuous love life and recurring drug habit. All the while, Cracking Up' ails from Tourettes syndrome in the form of Danny's insane impressions and spontaneous musical numbers.
My advice: buckle up and enjoy the ride. And don't blink for a second as you wouldn't want to miss Mitler performing an act as Robert De Niro as Jesus (!), complete with crucifix; simulating masturbation with a can of cola; and the manic energy of his Penis Man' routine.
Ultimately, Gold's mental frailty, and genius, is brutally exposed, and the route that gets us there is an interesting and humor-filled trip. The laughs are on a level higher than the average blockbuster' tripe; instead the jokes often hit the mark with the force of a sledgehammer. It helps, of course, that the supporting cast (Flynn, Brill, McDermott), mostly playing themselves, share a unique camaraderie that gels the story together.
In the very beginning, the ubiquitous Matt Mitler plays Danny Gold playing Marlon Brando in a take-off of the famous scene in On the Waterfront.' This results in a hilarious and unforgettable break-out of a Pee Wee Herman impression that would no doubt inspire Brando himself to label Cracking Up' a serious `contender.'