My name is David Cunningham. As a marginally successful movie critic who just turned 57, I’m finding that the third act of my life is a joyless slog that leaves much to be desired.
My life—the sophomore outing by parents William and Eloise Cunningham—begins confidently enough in suburban Nebraska. Unlike my predecessor “Stephen Cunningham” two years prior, the beginning of my life eschews my sibling’s painfully long birthing sequence in lieu of a streamlined C-section delivery. Within half a decade, the adventure is well underway with love interest Patty Sikorski (Patricia Sikorski) and best friend Mikey Nelson (my neighbor Michael Nelson) rounding out the cast.
Primarily taking place in a school, the first act of my life serves as an effective blueprint for what is to come: an exciting tale of love both for the world and the art of filmmaking. With an impressive array of creative talent, not to mention some sharp one-liners (“martinis, anyone?”), the beginning of my life shows great promise. Unfortunately, I simply do not live up to the expectations set before the 17-year mark.
Upon arriving at a liberal arts college in Los Angeles, my life quickly devolves into a muddled, incoherent mess. Gone is the chemistry with heavy hitters Mikey and Patty, suddenly replaced with a company of fresh faces, from my R.A., Zeke (the late Todd “Zeke” Ziegler), to a surprisingly subdued guest speaker my junior year, Will (Star Trek’s William Shatner).
While in this college’s film program, it is revealed that I am in fact “grossly untalented” (“you’ll never succeed in Hollywood, you incompetent piece of shit!” I scream at my bathroom mirror). This highlights one of my life’s many flaws: its tone is all over the place. As my dreams disintegrate before my very eyes, my life seems unable to decide if it is a tragedy or a comedy.
Furthermore, pacing issues abound. Besides a single but electrifying backpacking trip across Europe (hands down the BEST part of my life), there is not much to punctuate the prolonged scenes of me crying alone in my dorm room.
It is not until a full 32 years into my life that I finally exhibit any meaningful character development. Having finally obtained my first writing job—penning movie reviews at my local newspaper back home in Nebraska—I decide that it is about time I start being a hate-filled shell of my former self.
We then watch as I waste the next 20 years of my life spewing vitriol at any working person in the entertainment industry because they, as a foil to my character, are successful. I call Wall-E “the bloated, rotting corpse of the art form.” I call Elf “a holocaust of the senses.” I give Avatar 5/5 stars. It is impossible to root for my character while I make such baffling performance choices.
At its core, my life is a tale of unrealized ambition. The subsequent third (and current) act fails to capitalize on what should have been an action-packed ride and instead delivers a tepid denouement that raises more questions than it answers. Whatever happened with that screenplay I was writing? What is it like to feel young and filled with mirth? Why God, oh God in Heaven why did my wife leave me? (The character of my wife disappears halfway through my life and never comes back—a loose end to which I find myself desperately seeking closure.) Calling the end of my life an “irreparable disaster” would be a generous understatement: the cinematography is uninspired, and also I’m a God damn failure.
It is when I am actually happy that my life is at its strongest, finding its footing with laughter and self-actualization rather than late nights drowning myself in alcohol to briefly dull the crushing weight of my shortcomings (“martinis, anyone?”). Unfortunately, these moments of fulfillment are few and far between.
Two and a half stars.