Guest Artist review by Bobby Blakey
Jeff Daniels is one of those actors that can seemingly do everything from comedy like his iconic turn in Dumb and Dumber to great performances in shows like Newsroom. It is no secret of this love of the theater and now he is bringing one his own plays to life for the big screen in his latest film Gust Artist. Daniels pulls double duty of not only writing but also starring alongside newcomer Thomas Macias in his first film role. Could this be another great stage adaptation or will it miss the train altogether?
Guest artist follows Joseph Harris, a legendary, but troubled playwright as he comes to small Michigan town to mount his latest play. Greeting the cynical New Yorker is a young, aspiring writer by the name of Kenneth Waters who challenges his hero to be the man he has always idolized. However, Harris wants no part of Michigan or small towns, and he has no interest in being the young man’s hero. Kenneth must now face the circumstances he’s given and navigate the relationship between heroes, reality and hope.
I love films like this that rely on very little to make it work in regards to actors and settings. Here, nearly all of the film takes place in one setting with the exception of a few detours for story development. This sets a simplistic stage like setting for the actors to do their thing and allow their performances to carry the entirety of it without relying on gimmicks. There are so many great shots that I could instantly envision working on a stage set as well that made it so much better in the finished product.
Daniels is always great in every performance, but there was so much more here. I have no doubt having the opportunity to perform through your own voice in writing brings the passion forward all the more. At times his character is unlikable due to his issues and overall way of interacting with other or lack or being able to. This gives Daniels the chance to go all in with a powerful performance full of depth the really hit it out of the park. Despite his first role, Thomas Macias holds his own giving an awkward powerful performance as well standing toe to toe with Daniels. They are complete opposite characters and perfectly complement each other to create a narrative that is constantly engaging throughout.
While Daniels and Macias are the driving force of this film, there is another with more impact than it might seem. Within the train station they spend most of their time is Franz played perfectly by Richard McWilliams. His role is working at the train station and while it seems he is there just for them to have something too periodically play off of he is much more important to the story. He is the audience witnessing this interaction and seeing its growth and descent through the duration of the film.
In the end the film feels like a stage production with a larger budget and works to perfection. Despite its feature film style setting it’s simple and effective until the very end. I hope this film gets the audience it deserves to see yet another film showcasing actors doing exactly what they do, act. This is a character driven film that we don’t get enough of these days outside of the stage offering the less is more approach and powerful performances by all around.
Be sure to check out Guest Artist when it hits Digital HD on July 21 via Apple TV, Google Play, Prime Video, FandangoNOW and more.