Matt Barats is the loneliest field reporter in the world. Alone he camps in the woods. Waiting. Biding his time. Barats has appeared in a pizza commercial and is waiting on his payday. The payday that should have bankrolled this film. But instead, some divine intervention happens, and he must wait, meaning the film is now about his waiting.
Barats does not just sit in place. Instead, he will trace some of the footsteps of Joseph Smith, who stopped through some of these regions on his way to founding the Mormon Church. The film acts as a flatly informative study, then, of Mormonism. Barats stands alone with some of the monuments and spaces which demarcate the journey of this Prophet of American history.
Our lonesome subject talks at the camera. Faces the audience. Soul laid bare. Check waiting on some advertisements to be televised. What gets Barats through the wait is his deadpan sense of humor. The conception of this awkward indie film is a funny proposition, as we must also wait, not as though it is an act of durational cinema, but because that is what Barats has to do.
He spends his time in the self-effacing reflection of a life lived between the paychecks of ad spots. He travels here and there and fills in the basic background of a uniquely American story. Clears up some basic misconceptions about Mormonism. Tries to interlink his personal journey and virtues to those of Joseph Smith, which is interesting when it works and funny when it doesn’t really make sense.
This is a strictly independent production. It really is a one-man show. Barats over-enunciates in his deadpan documentary lilt, holding too long to the last syllables of his words, like documentary makers often do. He doesn’t exactly have anything to shoot. Sometimes he just talks about the nothing going on between shooting the commercial and the check arriving.
While waiting, he becomes a Dominos delivery driver for a while. We see a couple of interactions with customers. That’s about the extent of the incidental extra cast that appears in the movie. Just some people to have normal interactions with. In doing this, through his odd journeys, Barats reflects on what it is to have a job like this, what it means to be the would-be spokesperson for a new pie the company is rolling out but also the delivery driver performing a more standard operation here.
The thin line between being noticed and only noticing yourself begins to blur. Barats’ journey begins to fold in on itself. What begins as a mockumentary construct vacillates between plain honesty and a joking defense of the whole process. It is an interesting enough result. Perhaps nothing really happens. But in that nothing, I think we can find something. There’s something in the listless journey between paychecks, something as distinctly American now, as Mormonism is American.
This intermingling between objects of faith and the currency of capitalist promotion marks a curious chapter in Barats life. Perhaps it does not make for thrilling filmmaking. It does however make for a wryly observational documentary that tugs at the restraints of the genre. The forced limitations here provoke subtle pieces of humor that feel like they are conceived of abstractly but speak to the reality of the subject. Sometimes, it’s more interesting when nothing happens and the life event that could change all of this doesn’t come, so you can make the real movie you need to make.