I always thought the label “Angriest Man in the World,” given to former Winnebago salesman Jack Rebney, was a little unfair. OK, the guy definitely loses his cool in the profanity-laced outtakes that have become an internet sensation. Yet if cameras were rolling as I attempted to assemble a piece of furniture or when I played a particularly difficult video game, my reaction would be similarly profane (and not as funny). The like-minded Ben Steinbauer, director of Winnebago Man, approaches Rebney with a mix of curiosity and sympathy. The documentary stalls during its middle section, but its triumphant conclusion may help the feature become a festival favorite.
Out of love for the viral video, Steinbauer embarks on a search for Rebney. Along the way, he worries he might find a shell of a man – after all, Star Wars Kid sought psychiatric care and eventually sued those who posted the video online. The two eventually meet, and surprise one another. Rebney speaks with the cadence of an old-time newscaster, and despite his advancing age, still has a sharp mind. The rest of the movie is a battle between Rebney and Steinbauer, in which the young director tries to push the old curmudgeon out of his shell.
The movie has plenty of laughs – Rebney curses unlike anyone I’ve heard, and provides some one-liners that rival the best of the Winnebago Man clips. Amidst the jokes and verbal abuse, there is an old man whose temperament may mask deep loneliness. Perhaps he sees the viral video as a metaphor for lost opportunities. Rebney is skeptical of the documentary, and is at one point so crotchety that he almost loses the audience. I’d rather not reveal how the story develops, except to say I was surprised by a man most famous for saying “My mind is a piece of shit this morning.”
After the screening, Steinbauer took some questions. We were in for a pleasant surprise: Steinbauer called Rebney on speaker phone, and both men briefly spoke with the audience. An eager young girl asked whether Rebney has seen the movie, and Rebney spoke of his affection for Steinbauer and the film. He even asked us do to him a kindness. As a longtime fan, it was a pleasure, even if the conversation lacked an f-bomb.
Check in tomorrow when I (hopefully) have plenty to say about cat ladies and philosopher kings.
Check out Matt’s latest report here: http://www.brightestyoungthings.com/movies/silverdocs-report-2-maysles-best-worst-movie/