Martin (Healy) answers an ad to train as a record producer, where he’s excited by the prospect of signing undiscovered artists. The company, called Great World of Sound, partners shy, unassuming Martin with the gregarious Clarence (Holliday) and sends them on the road, visiting southern towns where the company has placed newspaper ads and turning motels into makeshift audition studios. Though an unlikely duo, they sign more acts than anyone else at the company. But when Martin takes a special interest in a young girl’s “New National Anthem,” putting up his own money and following her progress, he discovers that something’s amiss with the enterprise. As things threaten to unravel, he’s forced to weigh his nagging conscience against both his loyalty to Clarence and his own financial ruin. A playful, contemporary take on the classic American story of the confidence man, GREAT WORLD OF SOUND evokes conflicted hucksters from Willy Loman and the Mayles Brothers’ SALESMAN to the seedy charmers of seventies Altman. With real-life audition footage weaved into the fictional narrative, Zobel’s provocative debut explores the outer limits of our desire for celebrity, where big dreams beget bigger illusions, and fame always has its price.
We can’t say we’re anything less than extremely impressed with the directing debut of Craig Zobel. The Great World of Sound initially presents itself as a comedy while at heart dealing with a much more serious scheme that many people have fallen victim to within the music industry.
This wasn’t a movie where we were able to predict the ending. As the film progressed, the feel became darker and more disturbing; parts were painful to watch due to subject matter being so hopeless for the characters involved. Yet we couldn’t look away as we grew more attached to these characters.
The movie depicts a music label, The Great World of Sound, and the unassuming producers that they employ to lure in unsigned talent. We follow two of these producers on their quest to find talent, through hilarious auditions to the painfully real conversations about money and fame. The casting was top notch, as we could not have imagined better actors to play the roles of Martin (played by Pat Healy) and Clarence (played by Kene Holiday). The plot itself was something that while we wished was a bit lighter at points, yet we appreciated the overcast atmosphere that was created by the handling of the depressing subject matter. If the film was done any differently, we’re not sure it would leave viewers with the same feeling, which is ultimately what is so amazing about this film. The fact that it leaves you thinking about it for so long after you’ve seen it.
We look forward to seeing what directing and writing ventures that Craig Zobel comes forth with in the future, as we’re sure he has bright future ahead of him. Be sure to check out our interview with him later this week as a feature in our movie section!
Review by Emma Loggins