Meet the YouTube Star!

07/07/2010 3:00 AM |

Winnebago Man

Directed by Ben Steinbauer

For a movie that strives to adopt the choppy, pixelated aesthetic of a poorly buffered YouTube video, Winnebago Man is a surprisingly poignant and enduring film. Fledgling documentary filmmaker Ben Steinbauer’s feature debut profiles Jack Rebney, the infamous “Angriest Man in the World,” as he’s known on YouTube. Rebney gained instant inter-infamy for having an expletive-filled meltdown during what at first appears like an outtakes reel for a Winnebago infomercial. Steinbauer became fascinated by the man behind the barrage of four-letter words and eventually went in search of Rebney. What he found would shock the inter-world: a cantankerous but intelligent and human octogenarian.

Steinbauer himself tells us via voiceover narration that he’s not sure what he expected to get out of Rebney. The film lingers on its subject’s actions in an attempt to make the viewer feel like every action taken by Rebney and Steinbauer’s crew has potential significance, making his inclusion of spur of the moment, motion-sickness-inducing handheld camerawork a defendable though no less grating creative decision. Still, Rebney is such a character, constantly braying about the evils of Dick Cheney or anyone that gives him grief that Steinbauer doesn’t really need to do much to make him compelling.

There is something to be said for the kind of empathetic connection Steinbauer seeks to make between viewers and Rebney, but ultimately the film is a just a very well-made heartstring-plucking doc about an eccentric mini-celebrity du jour. He’s a great subject and Steinbauer knows how to sell him.

Opens July 9