Gross Misconduct: The Life of Brian Spencer

Gross Misconduct: The Life of Brian Spencer ★★★

In which my auteurist obsessiveness once again leads me to some unlikely places (see also the time I watched a documentary about a baseball coach for Linklater). “There’s a whole lot of ways of going through life casually, but I never did. I never found those ways, I never have been much of a casual person.” Spencer’s inevitable, drug-and-rage-fueled demise is the common stuff of tawdry rise-and-fall biopic, with the obligatory with-success-comes-debauchery montage and all. But Egoyan makes this far stranger and haunting than he had any right to. Repeated monologues delivered directly to the camera by a young Brian even evoke something of Watkins’s anti-biopic strategies; the cherubic boy speaking so calmly and knowingly about all the ways the world’s going to be ruined for him. “I’m a hockey player, almost genetically violent.” His father’s mysterious death, related to the night of Spencer’s greatest professional and personal triumph, is treated like a puzzle-box mystery; probing so many possible clues before tracking down the genuinely sad reality of his last tragic night. A man left carrying the weight of his father’s failures and faulty-hardwiring, each step toward disaster still so cruelly close to time when none of this seemed yet like it had to happen the way it did.

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