I Think We're Alone Now
Directed by Sean Donnelly
With Jeff Turner
and Kelly McCormick
Six years in the making, director Sean Donnelly's gimmicky documentary I Think We're Alone Now blends a kitsch pop-culture hook to the appeal of the freak show, as he follows a couple of mentally unstable fans of the eighties pop star Tiffany. Apparently unconcerned about the ethics of giving attention to stalkers or putting a camera on fame-obsessed mentally unsound people, Donnelly's film offers no insights, just a string of reality-TV moments.
Turner is a 50-year-old bachelor with Asperger syndrome, who shows the characteristic symptoms of verbosity and social maladjustment. A born-again Christian, conspiracy theorist and fan of the pseudo science of radionics, he interprets Tiffany's 2002 nude pictorial in Playboy as proof of her open declaration of love for him. He also believes he communes with Tiffany's spirit by putting a bicycle helmet with wires on it on his head.
Kelly McCormick is a 38-year-old from Denver. Self-described as an "intersex hermaphrodite," McCormick has long, dyed-blond hair, but otherwise appears to be a man with breasts and feminine hips. She is currently taking female hormones and wants to make the surgical transition to being a "complete" woman. McCormick, who has substance-abuse problems and dramatic mood swings, lives in a sparsely furnished apartment with walls covered with pictures of Tiffany, smudged from being kissed about the lips. After a bicycle accident, she says, she awoke from a 16-day coma convinced that she was destined to be with the pop star.
To double the fun, the filmmaker brings Turner and Kelly together to attend a Las Vegas concert to room together and squabble like junior-high girls about which one has a deeper bond with Tiffany. Turner is condescending about his purportedly close relationship with the star; Kelly is unable to sleep as she paints on makeup in anticipation of meeting her idol.
Tiffany, now a mother in her late 30s, who still lives off her former celebrity, did not do an interview in the film, but appears several times onscreen. We see her giving a free concert, where the camera lingers over other middle-aged men staring rapturously at the one-time teen idol, as she sings I Think We're Alone Now. We also see Tiffany at a convention, autographing copies of her Playboy pictorial and gamely interacting with creepy fans.
Though she previously had a restraining order taken out against Turner, we also see her meeting him and smiling patiently as he bear-hugs her and kisses her cheek. In an interview, the director has said her manager declined to show the film to her because he thought it might scare her, which seems far more poignant than anything in the film.
I Think We're Alone Now concludes with a mildly upbeat ending - no one gets hurt; one of the characters even seems to improve - which allows the documentary to be filed, like its subjects, into the category of benign oddities. "Harmless" is about as strong a defence that the film can muster.