The Brotherhood of the Traveling Rants (2013)
Directed by Steve Durand, Bryan Gaynor, Gavin McInnes
Most of the people reading this probably have no idea who Gavin McInnes is. My first introduction to him was through his weird penis. I’m a big fan of Terry Richardson’s photography, and many years ago I saw a couple photos by him of some guy with pointy facial hair and a very pointy foreskin*. These photos forever stuck with me, and it wasn’t until about a year ago that I saw this mystery man again, on Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld. Turns out the pointy foreskin man is a smart and funny writer and comedian who has a lot of great outside-of-the-box opinions on stuff. And now, with this movie, I’ve been surprised by him once again—the man has some serious acting and filmmaking chops.
The Brotherhood of the Traveling Rants is one of those sorta-documentaries containing some real scenes and some fake scenes. This kind of gimmick is usually annoying and unsettling, because you never really have a sure foothold, and you spend the duration of the film trying to deduce what’s real and what’s fake rather than just following the actual story. This film gets that, though. The switch-offs between real and fake here are so goddamn tongue-in-cheek and good spirited that by the end, the whole damn thing approaches transcendence, satisfying both your funny bone and your heartstrings in ways you will never have thought possible from what is essentially a standup comedy film.
A similar-ish feat was tried a bunch of years ago with The Comedians of Comedy, which is definitely very good, but doesn’t really tell a story. Sure, we get glimpses ‘behind the curtain’ here and there, but they’re slapdash, and the real meat of the film is clearly just Oswalt and Galifianakis and Bamford and Posehn’s standup. With Gavin’s film however, the focus is primarily on the relationship between him and his longtime best friend Steve Durand, who he is on a standup road trip with. The tour performances interspersed throughout are certainly as funny as anything in The Comedians of Comedy, but they exist to reinforce a larger story—no easy feat, and surprisingly, this is accomplished quite deftly.
What this means is that even if you don’t enjoy Gavin’s particular brand of dirty and potentially offensive humor, it’s still possible to enjoy this movie, because it’s not about that. It’s about how humor is used—specifically, between best friends. It’s about the power of humor to unite two people, but also, its shortcomings at such. In that way, it’s similar to Rick Alverson’s brilliant film The Comedy, although significantly less stylized, which is fine, because it doesn’t need to be. In fact, it’s better off for it. The rawness makes the whole thing feel impromptu; its messages seemingly stumbled upon, even though they’re there by design. It’s great slight of hand.
To mention yet another movie in yet another paragraph, several scenes in The Brotherhood of the Traveling Rants recall The Trip, Michael Winterbottom’s very good ‘the actors are playing themselves but they aren’t playing themselves but they are kinda’ movie from a few years back. So if you appreciated that one, you’ll probably appreciate this one (although that one was fully a fiction film, and this is a sorta-doc). The only problem is, if you’re a fan of The Trip, you’re never gonna fucking hear about Brotherhood of the Traveling Pants. Hell, even if you’ve got your finger firmly on the pulse of independent film, you’re probably not gonna hear about it. Which is a damn shame.
I guess the intended audience for this film is people who like Gavin McInnes and want to see what he’s up to, which, although he’s popular in certain circles, can’t be that many people. Thus, this will likely end up being a film most people never hear about. This is a damn shame, because it’s a great example of clever, gung ho, low-budget independent film, and I could see it having appeal far beyond its built-in fan base. Ideally, people should be discovering him through this film, not the other way around.
Currently this is on Video on Demand, which is a great feat, but it’s unlikely people who don’t already know/like him will take a $4.99 chance on it. Hell, people reading this right now who trust my taste, and love all the movies I mentioned in this review, probably won’t even take the monetary plunge on this thing. Which means Netflix is the ideal home for it, and I’m sure that’s where it’ll end up eventually.
On the off chance one or two of you are mulling the idea of giving this a blind shot on VOD, here’s a last ditch attempt to get you to go ahead and do that: the end credits are possibly my favorite end credits ever. I say this because one, it’s true, and two, it drives people crazy to hear shit like this. They want to see what you’re talking about immediately, and they can’t, and it eats them up inside. Then, for weeks, they hypothesize about what could possibly make the end credits so great, and decide to just rent the goddamn movie and see what’s up. This process is like The Ring, except after seven days, instead of dying, you just watch a really good movie that you’re totally gonna enjoy.
4 out of 5 Codys.
*Update: Since posting this, Gavin has reached out to me and clarified that his penis isn’t in fact pointy! He was stepping on his foreskin in the photo, which is what made it appear pointy. I hadn’t actually looked at the photo in quite some time, and remembered it wrong. He’s right.