It doesn’t take much rope for some people to hang themselves. “Overnight” is a 2003 documentary about someone who hung himself with six inches of empty air. Troy Duffy was a bartender in LA with a screenplay, and he received an opportunity that hardly ever happens to bartenders in LA with a screenplay – a major production and distribution deal from Harvey Weinstein. Thrilled, he immediately hired a couple of local filmmakers to make a documentary about his assured rise to fame and riches. They ended up capturing a Hindenburg disaster on film.
When aliens land and ask us for positive reasons why we shouldn’t be assimilated, I don’t there’ll be many fingers pointing at Troy Duffy. Arrogant, belligerent, with a tendency for insulting the big-name actors that he’s supposed to be schmoozing, he’s never made a movie before, and hasn’t even been to film school. He brags about showing up to production meetings hungover and wearing last night’s trousers. He has one talent: malapropism. “We’re a cesspool of creativity!” he exclaims. Elsewhere, he schools a naysayer: “Get used to my film career, ‘cuz it ain’t going anywhere.”
His boorish antics land him on Hollywood’s collective shit-list, and soon he receives a call from Weinstein. His film has been put into dreaded “turnaround” mode, halting production until a new deal can be negotiated. When a new offer to pick up the film emerges, its financing is very, very thin. And when the film is made, nobody wants to distribute it.
Another plot thread involves Duffy’s band, The Brood, who received a label deal to score the soundtrack to his film. His bandmates soon come to suspect that Duffy is not sharing his sudden windfall equally. At first Duffy says they don’t deserve a share of the royalties. Then, he moderates his position. “You do deserve it, but you’re not gonna get it.”
Things go from disaster to disaster, with Duffy’s family, co-producers, and bandmates going along for the ride (it’s not their first time dealing with this guy. You think they suspect there’ll be rubbernecking opportunities aplenty). As his projects steadily burn down, there’s endless scenes of Troy either partying or being a jackass. No doubt he fancies himself a work-hard-play-hard type, like Howard Hughes. But he hasn’t actually achieved anything yet. He’s like a runner who wants the champaign popped at the 900m line.
The documentary is fairly narrow in focus. We don’t see the critical moment where Duffy negotiates the film deal in the first place. And it doesn’t delve into the conspiracy theories about why Weinstein took a chance with Duffy, even if only for a figurative moment. It’s been speculated that he never planned to make Duffy’s film, that The Boondock Saints was destined for turnaround since day one, and it was just a PR stunt for his company. Yank a peasant out of the mud, and put a crown on his head. Then, when the cheering crowds are gone, quietly take it away. We don’t know if this is what happened. It’s certainly about as plausible as Weinstein trusting Duffy with millions of his dollars.
Ironically, Duffy’s film has proven to be massively popular on DVD. Unfortunately, he signed a contract that does not make him party to DVD profits.