They say Hollywood's the dream factory. In Confessions of a Superhero, director Matt Ogdens shows us some of the sweepings off the factory floor. In quick order, we're introduced to four would-be actors -- Christopher Dennis, Maxwell Allen, Jennifer Gerht and Joe McQueen -- who make a living between auditions and rare acting jobs by dressing as superheroes and posing with the tourists outside Graumann's Chinese Theater. It's a tightrope of a gig -- they have to stay on the public sidewalk outside of Graumann's, they can't ask for tips, they're on their own for supplies and support -- and as they suit up as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the Hulk, their borrowed personas seem to press them down even as they raise them out from the crowd. Confessions of a Superhero finds delight and depression in the details -- Dennis over-spraying Superman's distinctive forelock, or how Gerht's Wonder Woman belt is held on by paperclips.
It also actually sits down with all the participants and takes them seriously -- just as seriously as they take themselves, which can be very much so indeed -- and asks each of them how they got in front of Graumann's, and where they'd rather be. There's a host of legal issues at play in Confessions of a Superhero -- the limits of free assembly, the nature of copyright -- but those don't get dwelled on; instead, we see the ups and downs of our not-so-fantastic foursome's work. We see Joe McQueen demolished by the heat inside his colossal Hulk costume -- on a record 106-degree day, it's a brutal 130 degrees inside the emerald-tinged mass of foam Joe straps on for work. We also see the curious aspects of making yourself into a public image -- when Dennis poses with one young woman for a photo, the camera gently drifts down to reveal that she is, in fact (and there's no other way to say this) cupping Superman's junk.
It's hard to imagine that Confessions of a Superhero will get theatrical release. Never mind the legal concerns about the copyrighted images our subjects appropriate -- it's easy to imagine the lawyers at Time-Warner plotzing at the sight of a man in a Superman costume pulling a wadded mass of folded dollar-bill tips out of his red briefs -- but it's also a little more thoughtful, a little more sensitive than you'd think at first glance. It's easy to imagine a zippier, more glib version of Confessions -- but then you'd just have the spectacle without the struggle, the image of the costumes without the reality of the people wearing them. But if you're looking for a solid look at the entry-level jobs in the dirty business of dreams -- where aspiring hopefuls cloak themselves in borrowed fame to eke out a few bucks -- Confessions of a Superhero never loses sight of pop culture or personal struggle, and sticks with you thanks to a careful mix of big images and small moments.