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Harmontown

2014
Distributed by The Orchard, 23 E. 4th Street, 3rd Fl., New York, NY 10013
Produced by Neil Berkeley
Directed by Neil Berkeley
DVD, color, 102 min., English, with occasional subtitles in English for clarity
High School - General Adult
Comedy, Road Tours, Writing, Alcoholism


Reviewed by Barbara J. Walter, Longmont Public Library, Longmont, CO

Recommended   
 
Date Entered: 8/23/2017

…takes a lot out of a guy, being a vessel for God. – Dan Harmon, in Harmontown

Screenwriter Dan Harmon is frustrated, between jobs, with two project deadlines looming —one with CBS, one with Fox. Yet his quirky interactive podcast, essentially a vehicle for ranting, is a success, boasting devoted followers across the U.S. Rather than knuckle down and finish his projects, Harmon procrastinates in an epic way, launching a 20-day cross-country bus tour to bring Harmontown to its adoring fans.

Emmy-nominated director Neil Berkeley (Beauty is Embarassing, Gilbert) takes viewers on the road to Harmontown for an unvarnished portrait of its creator, a gifted writer best known for his work on the television series Community. He’s also well-known for speaking his mind, for comedic genius combined with a mean perfectionist streak, drinking and being difficult to work with; Berkeley interviews actors and comedians, fellow writers and directors who’ve worked with Harmon, and they all struggle to put into words the essence of Dan Harmon.

And while taking the podcast on the road seems like a good idea, the wheels do come off at points along the way: Harmon’s unscripted, “anything goes” approach makes for uneven performances, especially when alcohol’s involved, which is most of the time; and while Harmon basks in the adulation of his nerdy fanbase on and offstage, his girlfriend, podcaster and comedian Erin McGathy, becomes increasingly disenchanted with all the behind-the-scenes chores she’s having to tend to, as well as her boyfriend’s volatile temper and tendency to spill all about their relationship onstage.

Strong in every technical aspect, Harmontown is a funny and painfully honest sketch of a creative misfit prone to self-destruction, who nevertheless manages to connect often and deeply with his audience. A fine choice for academic libraries supporting coursework in broadcasting, screenwriting and the comedic arts, Harmontown deserves consideration for public library collections, too.