Thursday, May 01, 2008

I Think We're Alone Now

Sean Donnelly | 2008 | 70 mins | USA

Jeff Turner is a 50-something Santa Cruz man with Asperger’s Syndrome and a wealth of conspiracy theories about secret societies and satanic cults. Kelly McCormick is a 38-year-old hermaphrodite and sports fanatic from Denver who’s finally settling into her identity after a lifetime of gender confusion, family dysfunction and heartache.

Both are really, really huge Tiffany fans. Jeff has a machine that helps him communicate spiritually with the ‘80s pop star, while Kelly believes it is her life’s destiny to be with Tiffany.

It’s easy to see Jeff and Kelly as creepy stalkers, or pitiable crazies whose grip on reality is tenuous at best. But instead of poking fun at their delusions or their unrequited love for Tiffany, director Sean Donnelly offers a touching and distressing portrait of mental illness, obsession, hope and the deep need for love and understanding.

I Think We’re Alone Now starts out seeming like it’ll be pretty hilarious, if a bit cringe-worthy at times. The pleasant but difficult-to-sit-through surprise is that it’s actually profoundly disturbing and affecting. An unflinching look at two people whose inability to form meaningful bonds with people in their lives has been tragically superimposed on what might otherwise have been normal fandom.

The sad footnote is Tiffany herself, who appears in the film only briefly in various concert appearances at free beach shows and Vegas gay clubs. I guess after nearly two decades of toiling in obscurity, you start to appreciate the loyal, dedicated (if somewhat stalkerish) fans who’ve stuck by you through thick and thin. Back in the 80s, when she was teenage hot stuff, Tiff had a restraining order against Jeff. Now that times have changed, she gives the ubiquitous fan a hug at each public appearance.

The film premiered this week at Over The Top Fest, but you can catch it again at another of Toronto’s many film festivals later in the month – Inside Out .

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