An anthropologist who started out working for the BBC as a radio producer, Nicholas Barker calls his film "Unmade Beds" a study in untruthfulness. Which is to say, simply, fiction. Which is to say, nothing simply at all.
What Barker has made is a documentary cast with fantasy characters and a fantasy about real people. The extent to which he's pushed the format makes for an often excruciating trip into egos and loneliness, which--sad as it might be--can't help but at times be really funny.
Having searched the Manhattan personal ads for four people to build his film around, Barker arrived at the final quartet of "Unmade Beds": Brenda Monte, voluptuous, proud of it and looking for a man to pay her bills; Michael De Stefano, short and a little angry at never clicking with the women he meets; Aimee Copp, zaftig, lonely and ready to resort to donated sperm and single motherhood; and Mickey Russo, a 54-year-old swinger aging out of the singles scene, who uses a lot of tips to bartenders, the mercifully blind Internet and some highly exaggerated tales of his success as a screenwriter to keep himself in the flow.
"Unmade Beds" is not precisely fact-based, although it does uncover truths. All the characters are playing characters based on themselves, but scripted by Barker. The question, naturally, is what Barker chose to use in his film.
Were the stories more revealing (it's hard to imagine)? Did he soften the biographies, or improvise on the tales of the single life they told him? Most curiously, perhaps, is why people would willingly submit their lives to a film that portrays them in such painful, naked ways. Unless they thought it might help them get some dates.
* Unrated. Times guidelines: frontal nudity, extremely candid sex talk; not for kids or the timid.
All actors in the film play themselves: Brenda Monte, Aimee Copp, Michael De Stefano and Mickey Russo.
A Nicholas Barker Film, distributed by Chelsea Pictures and Acetylene Entertainment. Writer-director Nicholas Barker. Producer Steve Wax. Cinematographer William Rexer II. Editor Paul Binns. Music supervisors New State Entertainment, Rupert Lord, Tom Parkinson. Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes.
* Exclusively at the Nuart Theater, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles, (310) 478-6379.