(Originally written September 3rd 2011)
Beauty Day is a documentary about Ralph Zavadil and his alter ego local cable celebrity Cap'n Video. There is a good chance you are already familiar with the pool cover removal video that Cap'n Video is famous for. Personally, I have seen this video of his failed stunt more times than I can remember. While watching this documentary about the life of the Cap'n, it occurred to me that the fact that he fractured his neck while filming his show is far from the most interesting thing about him. With the way that the film is constructed I feel confident in saying director Jay Cheel feels the same way.
After opening the film with the pool cover stunt, the film doesn't feature too much more about the incident. This is a wise decision as there is much to cover in the life of Ralph Zavadil. The opening scenes immediately after the pool clips show the Cap'n heading to work in what is to be a prominently featured character, his fantastic hippie van. The way this scene is filmed brings to mind the best shots from Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler, and establishes Ralph as the hero of the film. I especially loved the long stagnant shot of Ralph riding the elevator while Rush plays on his headphones. There are many other well shot scenes like this in the film, which set this documentary apart from the legion of stock footage using, cheap animated sequence documentaries that come out every year.
While there is no horrible animated sequence in the film, there is a lot of old footage used. Zavadil seems to be a compulsive video shooter who documented not only his stunts for his weekly cable show, but many other aspects of his life as well. The adventures with his motorcycle racing ex-girlfriend are thoroughly documented and clips from these videos are used to create an emotional center at the core of this documentary. These rather personal moments in the film juxtapose the craziness of Ralph's alter ego and allow the documentary to be hilarious as well as bitter sweet and sentimental.
This only really covers the first half of the film though. The second half of the movie features Zavadil reviving the Cap'n for his 2oth anniversary with the help of one of his friends. This is the part of the film I liked the most. Not only is there a montage that uses Dan Deacon's The Crystal Cat as the music, but there are also some new uses for old television sets shown.
Immediately after watching Beauty Day I started watching another documentary that was made up of talking heads and stock footage. I honestly couldn't stand watching it, and I walked out. Now Beauty Day isn't a perfect doc, but it does try to be something more than ordinary. In my opinion it succeeds at being much more than ordinary, just like its subject Cap'n Video.