DVD: Forward 13: Waking Up the American Dream

STUDIO: Cinema Libre | DIRECTOR: Patrick Lovell
DVD RELEASE DATE: 1/24/2014 | PRICE: DVD $19.95
SPECS: NR | 97 min. | Documentary | stereo

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Let’s say you’re a typical upper­-class American with a good job, great family, nice house, big yard, the whole deal. The 2008 financial crisis hits, and you’re left with no home and an overwhelming bill that leaves your faith in the American Dream rather shaken. What do you do?

If you’re Patrick Lovell, television producer, you grab your camera and take to the streets. Forward 13: Waking Up the American Dream is the result –a road­-tripping documentary that attempts to make sense of the mess our country has become. The film’s first­-person approach is both a strength and weakness as it delivers an uneven but unique look into the American soul­ whatever that is these days.

Forward 13 movie scene

Patrick Lovell takes to his camera for Forward 13.

Say what you will about Michael Moore—the fact is, he’s single-­handedly stretched the documentary medium into a fusion of the personal and political, exploiting his everyman look to brilliant effect. Lovell gives this shtick his own twist and comes up a bit short, lacking both Moore’s capacity for pulling memorable stunts as well as his razor­-sharp agendas. At first, Lovell’s “personal story” plays more like an ego trip, as he provides clip after clip of friends and family telling the camera what an adventurous, live-­life­-to­-the­-fullest type of radical dude he’s always been. He really lays it on thick, until you realize this guy’s not pretending—he actually is an extreme­ sports, “I live for the ski slopes” type who truly, genuinely lived and believed in the ideal American lifestyle as seen on television. When the system failed him, it wasn’t just his bank account that took a hit—it was his entire psyche.

With this in mind, you have to give the guy credit—he leaves his wife and kid behind to drive around the country just as the Occupy Wall Street movement hits, giving him a network of the disenfranchised to connect with. In the meantime, he distills the endemic problems of corporate greed that have been systematically dismantling our society for the last several decades, ending with a fairly simplistic and unconvincing environmental solution put forth by some guy who’s supposedly an expert on such things. I don’t mean to ridicule his efforts—they’re well intentioned, and actually, mostly on target—but when this recently­ awakened convert attempts to explain the complex political machinations that make up America’s corporate takeover, his amateur status becomes clear.

On the other hand, that’s what makes him a perfect host. If you are like him—an average American who, for the most part, believes in the system you were born into—you are  most likely not interested in anything either Michael Moore or some liberal intellectual has to say. But with Lowell, you can relate to his story, his family, his point of view. And when you see him standing in solidarity with other radical lefty OWS protesters, you realize that the 99% really is 99% of America, which includes you, and maybe you start to question the whole crap game.

That’s the hope, anyway, that Forward 13 hangs on. It has its moments, but politically astute liberals can probably skip the film, other than to appreciate Lovell’s story (and to relive the OWS movement around the country.) For the rest of that 99%, however, still hovering between disenchantment and their upbringing, this little documentary just might be the answer.


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About Memo

Memo Salazar attempts many things and accomplishes few. His big three are making films, music, and comics, but he'll throw photography, graphic design and film criticism into the ring for good measure. He'll even make you a hand-painted t-shirt if you ask nicely. You can track his activity here when there's nothing else to do at work.