Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe

Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe

Director: John Bailey

Cast: John Bailey, Lily Tomlin

     
 

This filmed version of Lily Tomlin's successful one-woman performance piece is sometimes classified as a "documentary." However, it is one hundred percent from the show and contains nothing but that show, so it could also be classified simply as a comedy/satire. In any case, it features classic characters limned by this versatile performer, whose uncanny sketches… See more details below

Overview

This filmed version of Lily Tomlin's successful one-woman performance piece is sometimes classified as a "documentary." However, it is one hundred percent from the show and contains nothing but that show, so it could also be classified simply as a comedy/satire. In any case, it features classic characters limned by this versatile performer, whose uncanny sketches predated those by Whoopi Goldberg, Tracy Ullman or Sandra Bernhard -- all of whom walk in her footsteps. One of the repeating themes of the show is the avuncular advice of a delightfully addled bag lady who offers her services to help non-Earth aliens understand what they are seeing on this planet. All the skits tie together under the general theme of making fun of high-toned New Age rhetoric, which is a system of beliefs that proves inadequate to address the fundamental woes of everyday life.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Tom Wiener
An invaluable visual record of the successful one-woman Lily Tomlin show written by Jane Wagner, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe (the official title intentionally spells "intelligent" with one "l") is also a not entirely successful adaptation of a stage work that depended largely on the audience's imagination. In adapting any theatrical vehicle to the screen, filmmakers must make choices, and in the case of a dramatic play with a number of characters, "opening up" the setting is a starting point. Wagner and Tomlin's collaboration offers even more challenges, largely because on-stage Tomlin finessed portraying a disparate cast of characters by changing her voice and posture and pantomiming the use of props to suggest physical action. Tomlin's astonishing talent for mimicry, combined with Wagner's verbal dexterity, made for an exhilarating theatrical experience. Director and cinematographer John Bailey has opted for a mixed approach; the characters occasionally appear on stylized sets, and often Tomlin is allowed to change costume to heighten the reality, but at times he respects the original conceit, with Tomlin cavorting around a virtually empty stage in a blouse and slacks. It's a bit disconcerting when Bailey switches between the two approaches in the middle of a character's monologue. In a couple of scenes Tomlin interacts with herself, the best one featuring two prostitutes in a car on a rainy night, telling stories to a writer who is interested in gathering material for a story. The material that works best on film are these storytelling speeches; the series of observational riffs are still clever but fall flat without the feedback of an audience to heighten their impact. Tomlin and Wagner's creations don't necessarily need a laugh track, but in the more realistic medium of film, it sometimes feels like they're speaking into a strange kind of void.

Product Details

Release Date:
11/08/2005
UPC:
0801291118326
Original Release:
1991
Rating:
PG13
Source:
Laugh.com
Time:
2:00:00
Sales rank:
31,648

Special Features

Hilarious outtakes; Conversations with Lily and Jane; Writer's and Actor's notes; Archival footage and more!; DVD #1: 1. The Movie 120 min.; DVD #2: 1. The Goosebump Experience 5 min. 2. Magic Minimalism ; 3. Biographies: Lily Tomlin, Jane Wagner, Conversation-Lily & Jane at M.I.T. 4. Cast of Characters: Trudy, Agnus Angst, Chrissy, Kate, Paul, Lud & Marie, The Prostitutes: Tina & Brandy, The Feminists: Lyn, Edie & Marge 5. Outtakes ; 6. Ode to The Search

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