This documentary portrait of a one-time alcoholic tramp who became a ‘mascot’ of the New York film scene quickly runs out of charm.
"Is Radioman a character?" director Mary Kerr asks Craig Castaldo.
"I guess he is, in a way. But I'm the real one. I am Radioman. I am what I am."
Pick out any film set in New York over the past two decades and chances are you'll catch a glimpse of the city's most famous extra – so named because of a portable radio that's permanently slung around his neck. Looking and sounding like a grotesque bit character from a bad Robin Williams movie, the titular eccentric goes on to explain how he became part of the furniture of the New York film industry, blagging his way on to over 100 movie sets since 1990, beginning with The Bonfire of the Vanities and getting chummy with some of cinema's biggest stars in the process.
It's a mildly fascinating story of semi-triumph over stark adversity, with Radioman revealing how he overcame homelessness and alcoholism to realise his 'acting' dream. But you don't have to take the old geezer's word for it, not when there's a roll call of celebs eager to sing his praises – George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks count themselves fond acquaintances, while Josh Brolin asserts, quite bafflingly, that seeing Radioman is the first thing he thinks about whenever he arrives in New York to shoot a film.
After about 20 minutes of observational profiling and A-list endorsements, however, this well-intentioned bio doc has nowhere left to go. We see Radioman on set, watch him peddle around the city on his bicycle and take a guided tour of his cluttered bedsit. Then we see it all again. It's engaging to a point, but kind of boring once you've come to understand his obsession and unorthodox way of life.
And so Kerr ends up following Radioman to LA (assumedly having paid for his flight) where he hopes to rub shoulders with Hollywood's good and great at the 81st Academy Awards. Unsurprisingly things don't go according to plan. He's promptly turned away from every after party in town, despite having swapped his rags for a tux and taken a comb to his unruly whiskers. Out of his element Radioman cuts a tragic figure, and in this moment there's an argument to be levied against the director for exploiting – albeit with the best intentions – her clearly troubled subject.
Everyone loves an underdog story.
This old dog's got charm, but there's got to be a better way to tell his story than this.
Change the station.