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This So-Called Disaster Reviews

Reviewed By: Perry Seibert

Michael Almereyda's fly-on-the-wall documentary This So-Called Disaster offers nearly 90 minutes of intimate footage of some high-powered actors at work, but they are not what gives the film its worth. Although Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, and Woody Harrelson all have reputations as wild men, they are across-the-board professional throughout the proceedings. This is because they, like Almereyda, are obviously in awe of the play's writer and director, Sam Shepard. The best moments in the film take place away from the rehearsals when Shepard, alone on a chair on a porch, reveals the autobiographical facts about his relationship with his father. This often painful history has provided the raw material from which Shepard has fashioned plays that have made him arguably the most successful America playwright of his time. To hear him speak about these facts is engaging, but the majority of the film takes place while the actors are working with Shepard and each other. Seeing how they hone their performances in order to wring every nuance from the script is fascinating for anyone with an interest in the acting process, but those looking for reality-TV tension between the performers will be disappointed. This So-Called Disaster is a respectful film that will appeal to those with an interest in Shepard.