Face It: The Wolfpack Is the New Chance the Gardener

The documentary, The Wolfpack, presents the bizarre tale of a father who kept his wife and seven kids imprisoned in a small apartment on New York's Lower East Side for almost fifteen years. The only thing he allowed his six sons (a troubled daughter is largely ignored) to do until they finally "escaped" was to watch movies. Talk about binge-ing!

They devoured and memorized Pulp Fiction and The Dark Knight and presumably hundreds more as they grew up. (Home schooled by Mom) They acted out all their favorite scenes over and over, diving from couch to chair with their homemade swords and guns, donning creepy masks.

You can decide for yourself how good a film this is---filmmaker Crystal Moselle was allowed inside the apartment when the boys were in their teens, and given home movies. The circumstances are probably interesting enough to draw audiences, though one leaves with more questions than answers. (Did they ever see a dentist or doctor? Where did the money come from? What exactly are the unspeakable acts perpetrated by their father that they won't discuss?) We have since learned that the boys have been "released," and have gotten actual jobs in the film or video business or on websites. We even watch one interacting with co-workers, seemingly considered very cool when he shows his screen smarts.

The film does prove, first, that having at least one nurturing parent can be a lifesaver. It also says something about our media-mad society. In some ways, this is the contemporary version of Being There, the brilliant movie which starred Peter Sellers as Chance the gardener, a dimwitted but pleasant man, who only speaks clichéd phrases from commercials. The simple words manage to impress people--all the way to the White House--with their inferred wisdom. "Can we stimulate growth through temporary incentives?" he is asked by one of the President's men. Though Chance doesn't have a clue what an "incentive" is, he replies, "In the garden, growth has its seasons." And the economic advisers are off and running.

Likewise, when Shirley Maclaine's character asks Chance to come upstairs to her bedroom, he associates that with the place where his TV set is always on. "I like to watch," he says. And Maclaine is off and undressing.

I have no doubt that the pack's Angulo brothers-- who were given Hare Krishna-ish names-- will do fine in these buzz-fed, YouTubed, reality TV times. "The message of the film, and it may be true, is they don't need the real world to succeed," says New York psychiatrist Dr. Anna Fels. Indeed, one can imagine countless Wolfpack conversations, either professionally or socially:

--"So Mr. Angulo, have you ever been to Paris?"

--"We'll always have it!"

--"So Mr. Angulo, shall we make you an offer"?

--"Yes! One I can't refuse!"

--"Can you come back later"?

--"I'll be back!"

And should the responses engender a confused expression, they can always fall back on Wolfpack fave Pulp Fiction. "If my answers frighten you, then you should cease asking scary questions."

The next act is almost comically predictable. Already, the family has been to Sundance. The boys are interested in making music, so can a rap with Kanye be far behind? ("F--- your rat pack,brat pack, fat cat and pack rat...") Surely, every TV producer in the business is throwing offers their way. ("We'll make this the next Catfish!") A feature version of the doc seems likely. ("Miles Teller IS Govinda!")

And like with Chance the gardener, could the White House come calling? One can envision the entire communications office being turned over to the pack, maybe with Krisna as Press Secretary.

--"Mr. Angulo, why won't the President communicate with us?"

--"What we have here is a failure to communicate."

--"Does he fear Iraq is beginning to smell like Vietnam"?

--"I love the smell of napalm in the morning!"