Double Feature by Owen King © 2013, Scribner
Sam Dolan wants to be a movie director and wants even more to distance himself from his flamboyant actor father. See, Sam’s father, Booth, cheated on Sam’s mother all throughout their marriage. Mom tolerated the philandering, but Sam can’t for some reason. So the book is about Sam’s short and ill-fated directing career and his coming-to-grips with Booth.
The director story line was fun. Sam’s debut indie production, a heavy, artsy bit about transitioning to adulthood, is completed on a shoestring budget and with financial help from an off-his-rocker “assistant director” named Brooks. Brooks gets ahold of Sam’s footage, remakes the movie in his own bizarre vision, and then destroys the footage. Sam’s debut film is ruined. He tries to destroy the Brooks version, but it somehow goes public and becomes a cult hit for its sheer awfulness.
The family story line was a dud, a Royal Tenenbaums-esque collection of quirky folks who must learn to get along. King creates vivid, interesting characters and puts good words in their mouths, but events just go on way too long. Double Feature needed a serious editing. And the final scene was embarrassingly cliché—all the main characters show up at the same party and resolve their differences there. Jeez.
King shows good imagination for the most part and a knack for character construction. I think he could write terrific stories, and this might have been one, which made the lack of editing a real shame. It may have helped a promising young writer develop bad habits.
If I could tear off a third of Double Feature to keep on my bookshelf, I would, but as a whole this one was too overwritten and must meet my recycling bin.