“Circus Maximus” is being touted as disturbingly amusing, but only one of those words suit this film and it isn’t the later. The comedy sets out to tell the tale of screenwriter Cal Neros (Julian McCullough), who after receiving indie awards and accolades for his first film is struck with a crippling writers block for his next project and has yet to turn in a finished draft even though cashed and spent his million dollar advance months ago. Neros is a typical alpha male caricature of a New Yorker that seems fairly disconnected from the kind of guy who would receive accolades from a male-bonding indie film – think like a B-list version of Ed Burns or Kevin Smithafter “The Brothers McMullen” and “Clerks” respectively. And the studio seems to only care about him churning out another winner, so they request that he write a film comprised of three action vignettes as opposed to his standard feel good flick. His writers block coupled with the fact that he can’t get any peace, even while out grocery shopping as he is now a “celebrity”, makes Neros regret ever writing a script to begin with. His upcoming meeting with pushy producer Romano (Mario Cantone) has him so frazzled he decides to hole up in his recently deceased grandmothers apartment to churn the script, whatever it may be, out.
This is about as cohesive and intelligible as “Circus Maximus” gets. Unfortunately, the first fifteen minutes of the film, after the seven minute long opening credit sequence, is as good as it gets. It quickly devolves into three sub-plots, which we can only assume is the film that Neros is supposed to be writing and we are only clued into this by the multiple images of a typewriter spitting out pages. Get it? It’s the scenes being written. The three sub-plots, one starring usually hysterical Kevin Corrigan along with the Writer/ Director himself Thomas J. La Sorsa, border on manically vulgar. And you know what they say about vulgarity hiding stupidity. The film within a film sinks lower with is casual inclusion of multiple sexual assaults, racism, murder and a never ending display of expletives supposedly for the jokes. But this type of humor is only geared towards folks who don’t watch “Jersey Shore” for the irony.
Once the film loses the sadistic and poorly written sub-plots and returns to the main story of Neros battling with his small amount of fame it regains footing, but too little too late. The film’s main plot about being confused about loving what you do when it begins putting you out would actually be noteworthy if this flick had the guts to tackle it. Sadly, La Sorsa decided to take the easy way out here and compile a sensational amount of rape and midget jokes instead. The semi-autobiographical film could have remained raunchy and humorous without the poorly laid additions of the film within a film. It’s near impossible for any studio to actually decide to pick up this film and market it, so the CMJ viewing could be the last time it’s shown in front of an audience bigger than the writer’s family and friends. And how this was chosen to open a Film Festival which is part of one of the most well known music fests is more than puzzling. Compared to the other films screened during last week’s festival, its shameful for this film to be included in the bunch. Someone must have lost out on a bet and it was everyone stuck in that audience. [D]