OC87 is a difficult movie to criticize. The movie’s full title is OC87: The Obsessive Compulsive, Major Depression, Bi-Polar, Asperger’s Movie, and that full title refers to all of the many problems plaguing co-director Bud Clayman. The film itself is an exploration of these disorders, but it’s also largely a therapeutic exercise for Bud, who finds himself climbing out of a hole that derailed his college desires to be a filmmaker.
It’s that personal aspect that makes the film tough to come at critically; who wants to be the guy who is running down someone else’s healing process? And I found that stuff the least interesting aspects of OC87 by a long shot. There are scenes where Bud visits old apartments and stuff and I simply couldn’t care less (I was also baffled by the conclusions he made in some of these scenes; when he visits an old apartment and had no deep feeling about it he presents it as a sign of his disorder. To me it seemed like he just didn’t have a lot of strong experiences at that apartment. It happens), but there are other scenes where he interviews fellow sufferers that are riveting. And most interesting of all are scenes where he lets us in on what it’s like in his head, showing how even a short walk down the block can be an exhausting mess of compulsive thoughts.
Bud himself is an interesting weirdo with whom to spend time. I wonder if the film hadn’t been co-directed by him we might have gotten something a touch deeper; much of OC87 is about how Bud sees himself, but I wanted a more objective viewpoint on the guy. I was especially intrigued by the contrast of the way Bud plays to the camera - with long, braying laughs and a big smile - with the way he is when he’s just beginning or ending a take. There’s a robotic stillness to him in these moments that are quite unlike his other vivacious outbursts.
In the film Bud has a few moments with his dad, who seems unable to fully understand the depths of his son’s problems. An old school kind of guy, Bud’s dad subscribes to the ‘suck it up and deal with it’ school of thought, and when Bud’s world came collapsing down in his first big breakdown in 1987 (where the film gets its title, and the term Bud uses to describe his deepest episodes), his dad thought the kid just needed a job. I have to admit to being sort of in Bud’s dad’s camp when it comes to the epidemic of medicated people in this country. That’s why I particularly appreciated the sequences that gave us a peek into Bud’s mind, because it allowed me to better understand things that have largely felt phony to me.
I don’t know if that makes me the perfect audience of OC87 or the worst audience. I walked away from the film with torn feelings - on the one hand I better understood people like Bud, but on the other hand I found myself frustrated with him. The film attempts to make the case that Bud’s filmmaking career was cut short by his mental illness, but it never makes a case that he would have had a filmmaking career otherwise. We see a bit of a film Bud shot in school that is, more or less, exactly at high school filmmaker level. On the one hand the movie made me feel deep empathy for this guy, and on the other it brought up familiar feelings of being disappointed by blame-shifting.
The movie ends with a sequence where Bud re-enacts one of his favorite Lost in Space moments. It’s part of the heavy therapy aspect of the movie - I don’t know that us seeing this role playing exercise adds anything to our understanding of Bud and his disorders - but it’s also part of the peculiar joy of hanging out with Bud for a little while.