I’ve always dreamt of being famous. Sad to think about it now, as I’m 38, a husband, a father, with a good job, but I still have an inkling of that desire. I am sure that a lot of us born post 1970 feel that. Growing up, we’ve had Star Search, American Idol, and countless other vehicles to jettison someone into the public eye. But what if we’ve tried all that and still need to get there? In Brody Gusar’s THE NEXT BIG THING, we get to see two friends that share that dream take a dark and hilarious trip to potential stardom.
Julian (Brad Culver, BREATHING ROOM) is an actor that is working in a customer service call center while work shopping ideas on a middling YouTube channel. He is married to Beth (Sam Bianchini, LOST ANGELES), a yoga instructor, and together they live with his ailing grandmother Dotty (Sharon Noble, MASK, Dennis the Menace) who raised him. All of that is turned upside down, when his long time friend Chuck (Jonney Ahmanson, THE ITALIAN) comes back into his life after a year with the intention of making a movie about Julian.
What follows is a black comedy shot in a documentary fashion as we see Julian begin to spiral out, alienating those around him in order to take that next step to stardom, with Chuck egging him on when he’s about to give up. Personal boundaries are crossed as the two come to terms with their pasts. Oh, and did I forget to mention that they are friends with the actor Jonathan Lipnicki (JERRY MAGUIRE, STUART LITTLE)? Jealousy and bitterness abound as they hang out with the actor while Julian struggles.
With THE NEXT BIG THING, we are presented a story in an almost found footage style, with little clues sprinkled throughout leaving you wondering who is an actual part of Julian’s life and who is an actor playing a role to spice up their narrative. As beats occur, you find yourself trying to pick apart which part is a bit and which segment was supposed to be raw humanity. And given that, it succeeds as a highly entertaining watch, as the veil between performance and reality is damn near nonexistent. Gusar earns points both in direction and editing as it pulls off THE GAME like meta status.
Yes, we have Lipnicki, Lou Ferrigno (as a studio suit), and Marshall Manesh (How I Met Your Mother), but the film truly revolves on the interactions between Julian, Chuck, and Beth. Culver and Ahmanson are natural together as friends, but the tension between them becomes palpable as well. And Bianchini wows in multiple scenes, including one where Beth clears things up at a restaurant to allow for them filming their anniversary dinner.
THE NEXT BIG THING is premiering at the Arena Cinema in Los Angeles February 9th, with Amazon streaming available same date.