Harry Shearer’s THE BIG UNEASYAugust 16, 2011
On Demand Weekly provides new movie reviews of hot movies on demand and from the POV of watching from the comfort of your home. Today’s review: THE BIG UNEASY (FilmBuff)
Harry Shearer’s THE BIG UNEASY
By Chris Claro
Harry Shearer is known as many things – an actor, a comic, a musician, a writer, even the host of the long-running radio series Le Show. Now, with THE BIG UNEASY, the multifaceted Shearer can add “muckraker” to his resume.
The documentary, written and directed by Shearer, focuses on the cover-up orchestrated by the federal government and the Army Corps of Engineers in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. At the heart of the film is an investigation into the destruction of one of the country’s oldest and most organic urban areas. The callous disregard for the city displayed by both local and federal officials in the aftermath of such a cataclysm that Shearer states, unequivocally, was no “natural disaster,” but a failure of architecture and design, gives THE BIG UNEASY a spine and through-line worthy of any fictional thriller.
THE BIG UNEASY (FilmBuff)
With its lush cinematography by Arlene Nelson, and a sumptuous score provided by some of New Orleans’ most notable musicians, THE BIG UNEASY is the rare documentary that is as entertaining as it is informative. Clearly a passion project for Shearer, the film’s undercurrent of rage and exhaustion toward the government’s obfuscation is leavened by the hopeful attitude maintained by the region’s citizens and the gentle touches of humor that satirist Shearer applies with a light hand.
Shearer himself appears only periodically onscreen, as a guide to help the audience keep track of the story and the numerous talking heads throughout the film. Those heads include everyone from soil experts to government lackeys to professors to whistleblowers, each of whom has his or her own perspective on what made Katrina such a devastating and long-lasting crisis for the region.
Harry Shearer / THE BIG UNEASY (FilmBuff)
With his own agenda clear from the first frame, Shearer is not aiming for objectivity – he is furious at the way the Army Corps of Engineers has done everything in its power to not just dodge accountability, but to prevent scientists and investigators from finding out how to prevent another Katrina-level disaster. Shearer keeps his obvious outrage at a slow burn, offering his subjects the room to tell their own stories of being fired, blacklisted, or simply ignored as they attempted to investigate the effects of the hurricane.
Though he’s deadly serious onscreen, Shearer can’t completely tamp down his comic impulses and they’re on display throughout THE BIG UNEASY in a recurring segment called “Ask a New Orleanian,” in which fellow local John Goodman entertains some of the more ignorant queries that have been asked about the city since Katrina struck. The film’s star power is augmented by narration from fellow New Orleanians Brad Pitt and Wendell Pierce.
John Goodman / THE BIG UNEASY (FilmBuff)
THE BIG UNEASY is not an easy film to watch, in either its recounting of the disaster or in the often infuriating backpedaling, finger pointing, and dancing around the truth in which its subjects engage. But it is one of the best documentaries of the year, an earnest, scrupulously sourced investigation of class structure, abuse of power, and the buoyancy of spirit that has come to define the citizenry of New Orleans.
That it comes from the man behind Derek Smalls, Ned Flanders, and Waylon Smithers makes it all the more impressive. A surprising, maddening, inspiring journey along a river of intrigue, THE BIG UNEASY is a VOD must-see.
Chris Claro is a contributing writer to On Demand Weekly. He is a former Director of Promotion for Sundance Channel and now works as a writer, producer, and media educator. He is a regular contributor to dvdverdict.com and contributor to the Eyes and Ears section of huffingtonpost.com
Look for THE BIG UNEASY (FilmBuff) under your cable system's Movie On Demand section.
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