Review: Change is in the air as the Yes Men return
To the ire and embarrassment of politicians, media outlets and multinational corporations, Mike Bonanno and Andy Bichlbaum (a.k.a. the Yes Men) have been plying their brilliantly satirical brand of performance-art activism for more than 15 years.
The third documentary to chronicle their exploits finds them focused on the issue of climate change. With personality differences and midlife frustrations affecting the creative partnership, it’s a less madcap affair than the previous films.
Directed by Laura Nix and the Yes Men and covering a four-year period, “The Yes Men Are Revolting” looks behind the put-ons to glimpse the men’s private lives. This aspect of the story can have the disappointing feel of downtime, but it also can be revelatory. Bonanno and his wife are raising a family, whereas Bichlbaum, who’s gay, finds work easier than relationships; as different as they are, there are fascinating parallels. Not least, they’re both children of Europeans who fled the Nazis, no doubt instilling a profound skepticism toward authority.
After pulling off a hoax at a Copenhagen summit on climate change, the co-conspirators are deflated by the conference’s inability to generate meaningful policies. Bichlbaum describes an endless cycle of hope and depression, probably unavoidable for anyone bent on changing the world. Bonanno moves his family to Scotland, and only from that safe distance does he share major news with his fellow prankster.
As the Yes Men struggle to get their mojo back — eventually they’re reinvigorated by the Occupy movement — fans will find fewer of the elaborate deadpan stunts than they might have hoped for. But the faux press conferences and perverse inventions (SurvivaBall, anyone?) that are included here highlight corporate greed and governmental shortsightedness as shrewdly as ever.
“The Yes Men Are Revolting”
MPAA rating: R for strong language
Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes
Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood. Also on VOD.