The Reinactors follows the lives of a group of Hollywood Boulevard reinactors—those who impersonate well-known movie industry characters on the street, posing for photos and entertaining tourists—for a span of two years. Most of them are homeless or living in mobile homes; some of them are part-time actors in Hollywood or just aspiring to it, but they are all stars in their minds.
At first, the main thread of the film is one which forms the basis for most reality TV shows: the delusional aspirations of normal people, and the subsequent exploitation of them. The problem with this format is that some of the characters refuse to get out of character and stay unknowable throughout the film. On the other hand, the beauty of this approach is how it does show, in great detail, the personalities and lives of some of the more accessible people. This way, you get both a broad and a detailed view. The broad view is ironic, showing the different characters’ delusions and contrasting opinions, their squabbles and competitions, their insanity. But when the film focuses in on a few of the subjects, their difficulties, feelings, and backgrounds—depicted previously as caricatures—move to the forefront.
Of course, being a Dave Markey film, it is absolutely hilarious. The characters jump from revealing their traumatic lives to complexes about their sexuality; from tales of drug addiction and criminal pasts to discussions of how much they hate other impersonators’ costumes; from their careers as porn stars to details of their endless hopes and ambitions. The absurdity is so extreme it nearly defies belief, and this disbelief was apparent in the audience reaction.
Even at a lazy early morning showing, everyone was laughing, gasping, or staring in horror. At the question and answer session afterwards nearly all questions were about the subjects: where they were now, what they thought, what had happened to them. Obviously there was a high level of involvement with the reinactors in the making of this film, which is not something you would expect from the bizarre subject matter.
The mixture of emotional involvement and extreme ludicrousness in The Reinactors is almost impossible to either describe or summarize. It’s like one of those 60s pulp novel covers stating that the stories inside are Incredible! Impossible! Larger Than Life! Only in this case, that’s really what it is, just like the people in it.