By what measure can a showbiz lifer who never had a mainstream hit claim success? That's the unanswered question in Kiki Melendez's "Journey of a Female Comic," which is billed as a "docu-comedy" but is closer to a video scrapbook of an obscure comedian's career.
The invitingly loud Melendez posits herself as both a victimized failure and a triumphantly persevering pioneer, and though one can certainly be both, the film doesn't say anything new or meaningful about the industry she's been dying to join for the last two decades.
Perhaps Melendez set her sights too high. Her efforts to remake Hollywood in her own image — by experimenting with bilingualism, promoting female comics of color and attempting to attract backers to her Christian script — consign her to the niches of the entertainment industry. Introduced one after another, her doomed projects implicitly indict the social conservatism of the film and comedy worlds.
Melendez also makes it easy to argue that she simply wasn't funny enough to make it big. The documentary's re-creations of key moments in Melendez's career, including a wayward meeting with an Orthodox Jewish investor, reveal an overly game performer who needs reminders that she's not acting in a soap opera.
Only actor Esai Morales, explaining with various Latin American accents and mannerisms the difficulty of unifying Spanish-speaking audiences, convinces us of his stolen stardom.
"Journey of a Female Comic."
MPAA rating: PG.
Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes.