"I don't know why I'm not scared at all." These are the words of Troy Duffy, an East Coast-bred dreamer who moved to Los Angeles to pursue his music career, found himself suddenly thrust from bouncing and bartending into a nearly million-dollar-deal with Miramax Films, and survived, barely, the Hollywood lion's den for a few horrifying years. But there's a reason Duffy wasn't scared, despite having every reason to be: the man is a psychopathic egomaniac and substance abuser. At least, that's what his friends have to say about him in the documentary Overnight.
Okay, co-directors Mark Brian Smith & Tony Montana aren't friends with Duffy anymore, but they were when they began shooting an eventual 350 hours of footage to document Duffy's assault on Hollywood. Duffy was working at J. Sloan's, a Los Angeles dive bar, when a friend managed to get Duffy's script The Boondock Saints into powerful hands. After an intense bidding war, Miramax chief Harvey Weinstein laid out the deal, which included, among other perks, a promise to purchase J. Sloan's for Troy and his brother Taylor. Immediately, Troy got to work...congratulating himself for his greatness and success.
Hollywood helped: Smith and Montana show us a backyard "film deal barbeque" attended by Mark Wahlberg and John Goodman, followed by a parade of well-known actors tromping through the now hip J. Sloan's: Jake Busey, Jeff Goldblum, Patrick Swayze, Vincent D'Onofrio. As pre-production and casting proceed, Duffy positions his band The Brood for a record deal to complement their contribution to the film's soundtrack. Full of lofty promises of lifelong employment, Duffy consistently reassures Taylor (the arguable heart of the band), Smith and Montana (the band's one-time co-managers), and three others who comprise Duffy's so-called "the Syndicate" with pep talks that wouldn't sound out of place coming from General Patton. A record deal follows the movie deal, as does a "record deal celebration" in Cabo San Lucas.
In fact, Duffy exudes a lunatic confidence. Over an apparently sober breakfast, smoking and swearing up a storm next to his wide-eyed teenage brother, Duffy delivers a rant that reeks of delusion: "If our music in this film is embraced, we will have accomplished something that no on else in the history of this fucking world has ever done: be accepted on a huge scale in both mediums of film and music." For his part, former Doobie Brother and music producer Jeff "Skunk" Baxter describes The Brood as "if the Beatles could meet Alice in Chains," but he's quicker to sing the praises of Taylor rather than Troy, who consistently belittles his bandmates by reminding them they'd be nowhere without him.
Critical of everyone but himself, Duffy slowly but surely squanders his opportunity with Miramax by alienating Weinstein and bogging down development with unreasonable demands. Finding himself in turnaround and then cut loose completely, Duffy finds himself blackballed by a Harvey-fearing town and at the mercy of whatever deal he can get. Through it all, he maintains that he has the companies right where he wants them. Needless to say, complications ensue with the record deal, and Duffy's alcohol-fueled downward spiral alienates everyone in his life, including his helpless family. An attempted emotional intervention by Taylor falls on deaf ears.
The cruelties of Overnight are so thorough as essentially to decimate the humor, but the film resonates with irony. Early on, Paul Reubens submits to an unintentially parodic audition marked by Duffy enthusiastically plumbing the emotional depths of one of his Tarantinoid homopohobic slurs. A giddy William Morris agent admits of Hollywood, "Rome has nothing on us!" When a broken Duffy wins an audience with a small Boston University film class, his "no one understands me" mantra hits a darkly amusing low. Long after being dumped by Miramax, Duffy sports a Boondock Saints hat stamped with the Miramax Films logo; if Duffy means the fashion choice to be ironic, I suppose he succeeds.
Film buffs probably already know that Boondock Saints bombed as a theatrical release but found new life as a home-video cult hit. The film's interest, though, isn't so much in "what" as "how" and "why" so much potential could be so thoroughly dissipated. Overnight, with its rough but pervasive all-access DV footage, puts one in mind of Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, but without the crucial psychoanalyst. In the end, Smith and Montana don't even try to hide that Overnight is their hatchet-job revenge on the man who first betrayed their confidence. A film-ending epigram about success implies that it only brought out Duffy's dormant true colors. Overnight is guiltily mesmerizing; if it's instructive at all, it's as a cautionary tale of the fatality of lost perspective.