blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

The Definition of Insanity (2004, Robert Margolis and Frank Matter)

Robert Margolis stars in THE DEFINITION OF INSANITY, directed by Robert Margolis and Frank Matter.

I’m not sure when everyone in New York being an actor became general knowledge, but The Definition of Insanity might be the first film I’ve seen to explore it… or pretend to explore it.

But why I say pretend to explore it is because the film’s got some major problems. It’s really amusing for a while, as Robert Margolis’s insanely optimistic non-working working actor goes through his days, but once the viewer has to question the content, it all falls apart. It’s never clear why someone would make a documentary (the film’s framed as a documentary team following Margolis around) about him, it’s never clear how he and his wife afford an apartment in Manhattan. But it really falls apart when it’s clear Margolis’s protagonist isn’t an inventive liar. He’s just full of it, constantly lying to his wife, family, friends… the lying could be funny, but it’s not written funny. Instead, he’s a jerk.

Worst is the conclusion. Kelli Barnett, as his wife, betrays him and ruins his life and chance at a career. She’s reduced to a villain–though the film does try some rehabilitation to her image at the end–just as Margolis’s protagonist starts exploitatively romancing a recovering mental patient.

The film really overstays its welcome–it runs a watching-checking eighty minutes–but it’s very well-acted overall. Frank Krias, Derek Johnson, pretty much everyone in it but Amanda Kay make it work.

It’s shocking it hasn’t gotten Margolis (and Barnett) more mainstream attention.



Written, produced, directed and edited by Robert Margolis and Frank Matter; director of photography, Matter; music by Paula Atherton and Amy Fairchild; released by Dirt Road Films.

Starring Robert Margolis (Robert), Kelli Barnett (Sally), Frank Krias (Frank), Derek Johnson (Derek), Amanda Kay (Kate), Peter Bogdanovich (Peter Bogdanovich), Dylan Margolis (Dylan), David Maquiling (Anthology Manager), Jonas Mekas (Dr. Mekas), John Greiner (The Playwright) and Dawn Marie Anderson (Dawn).


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