Friday, June 21, 2024

“FLIPSIDE”

THE STORY – A comical attempt to save a New Jersey record store and confront a mid-life crisis.

THE CAST – N/A

THE TEAM – Christopher Wilcha (Director/Writer), Joe Beshenkovsky & Adam Samuel Goldman (Writers)

THE RUNNING TIME – 92 Minutes


It’s not uncommon to hear that a film “defies description.” Whether because of genre remixing or unconventional plots, plenty of movies can confound those trying to summarize them. But “Flipside,” the new documentary from Christopher Wilcha, is truly difficult to categorize, and wonderfully so. It’s the film equivalent of a record store bin marked “Misc” – a time-hopping, subject-switching, and ultimately life-affirming look at the various paths that our brief existence can take, and it shows that there’s beauty to be found in all of them, even the ones that end in uncertainty. With “Flipside,” Wilcha boldly empties his thoughts, fears, and dreams and filters them through his camera, putting each celebration and hesitation on display for examination, critique, and appreciation.

If that all sounds unsustainable as a concept for a feature-length documentary, Wilcha himself seems keenly aware of this. In fact, the film is essentially a collection of mini-films, mostly made up of home movies and unfinished documentary footage. The movie also shows how his career took turns that he couldn’t have foreseen when he first entered the entertainment business. Having initially made a splash with his documentary about his struggles as a Gen X young adult in a corporate world, titled “The Target Shoots First,” he eventually slid into commercial directing just to pay the bills. Although she has tried to make more artistically satisfying documentaries throughout his life, Wilcha admits to having a consistent problem with finishing projects, and “Flipside” serves as his self-assessment of his rough drafts of films. And in looking through his endless hard drives of footage never fully assembled, he subtly and smartly comes to conclusions about his life that are easier to realize when watched on a screen.

The film takes its name from Flipside Records, the suburban New Jersey record store where Wilcha worked as a teen. As he explains, as an adult, he once took a detour after filming a soul-crushing bank commercial and ended up back at the store where he spent so much time in his youth. To his amazement, nothing about the store had changed, including the owner, Dan. But as to be expected, the shop was decidedly less successful than it had been in its heyday in the 90s. Wilcha endeavored to use his camera to help draw attention to the shop, but unsurprisingly, he never finished the documentary. This film depicts his time back in the record store, again attempting to bring life to it with his filmmaking skills. As he explains, “If I’m gonna shill, why not shill something I love?” Flipside Records serves as the film’s anchor, with Wilcha constantly returning there after exploring various tendrils of his life and work. This lends the record store a limbo-like quality as if it’s frozen in time for Wilcha – and thus the audience – to return to whenever needed. Every minute the film spends in the shop is a revelation, exploring Dan, his strange old-fashioned store (he doesn’t even use a computer to categorize or sell his records), and the characters who pop in to peruse and share their thoughts on music. These temporary inhabitants would be right at home in a sitcom, including Uncle Floyd, the former absurdist television comic, and Tracy Flipside, who got her nickname from her many hours spent working in the titular store. Wilcha observes these characters with amusement, fully bewitching the audience in Flipside Records’ spell and clarifying why he and so many others have been drawn to the store over the years.

“Flipside” is, in essence, something resembling a mid-life crisis in cinematic form. And again, Wilcha isn’t ignorant of this. He has no illusions about how the film may seem like a cry for help, and he even smartly leans into the self-critical aspects accompanying such a milestone of aging. “Flipside” isn’t a troubling watch. Instead, Wilcha brings his audience into his world as a middle-aged man who once dreamed of bucking the system and, instead, ended up working to help strengthen it. With “Flipside,” he shares his revelations about the small decisions that eventually add up to a life, showing that it’s never too late to make a change and fully realize your once-forgotten dreams. Time passes quickly, but never too quickly, to fill it with worthwhile memories. And with this film, he examines the time we’ve all been gifted in a hilarious and moving way.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Documentarian Christopher Wilcha creates an affirming, moving collage about unfinished projects and unfulfilled potential that is hilarious and emotionally effective. His hours of footage are well-edited and fascinating to watch.

THE BAD - The film’s indefinable quality—one of its strengths—may make it difficult for some viewers to accept.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - Best Documentary Feature

THE FINAL SCORE - 8/10

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Cody Dericks
Cody Dericks
Actor, awards & musical theatre buff. Co-host of the horror film podcast Halloweeners.

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Latest Reviews

<b>THE GOOD - </b>Documentarian Christopher Wilcha creates an affirming, moving collage about unfinished projects and unfulfilled potential that is hilarious and emotionally effective. His hours of footage are well-edited and fascinating to watch.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>The film’s indefinable quality—one of its strengths—may make it difficult for some viewers to accept.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b><a href="/oscar-predictions-best-documentary-feature/">Best Documentary Feature</a><br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>8/10<br><br>"FLIPSIDE"