What the hell did I just watch? I had a little bit of foreknowledge going into this film, but nothing in the short synopsis I read before sitting down with it truly prepared me for what I was about to experience. I expected to be weirded out by the tale of these two individuals and their shared pop idol worship, but the movie does dramatically more in its relatively short run time.
I Think We’re Alone Now is the story of two indescribably obsessed fans of 80′s pop singer Tiffany, the title being a direct reference to her most well-known song. These two people have some remarkable similarities, but even more remarkable differences, and could have easily been the subjects of their own separate films. Jeff Turner is a 50-year-old man with Asperger’s syndrome from Santa Cruz, and Kelly McCormick is a 38-year-old inter-sexed woman from Denver.
Their fandom in regards to Tiffany goes beyond what one would consider to be highly obsessional, with both parties under the delusional belief that they are actually friends with the celebrity they so admire, though Jeff more so.
Jeff, with his outstandingly thorough approach to being a neurotic megafan, dominated the film for a considerable portion. This is a man who has actually been arrested for his obsession, when in the late 80′s he rushed the 16-year-old singer at a concert and began trying to hug and kiss her. In true spirit of his delusion Jeff rationalizes the event, wherein multiple security guards had to swarm him and pry him away from the young pop idol, as an attempt by the guards at “protecting” him.
Perhaps most impressive is Tiffany, who all these years later has sort of accepted Jeff. She knows him by name and face whenever he travels the country, showing up at conventions and concerts she does.
Nothing in this documentary could quite top Jeff. It showed a side of him beyond his Tiffany obsession – his interest in conspiracy theories (though he does not consider them mere theories), an ardent and passionate love for Jesus Christ, and his collecting of “radionic, cybertronic” equipment. You’ll have to excuse me if I’m misspelling those last two terms, because I can’t find any information about said equipment, which he claims to have spent over $20,000 for on eBay.
The devices, which reminded me of the fraud time machine from Napoleon Dynamite, are little more than blocks of wood and metal with little knobs on them. One particular piece of this equipment is a bicycle helmet with dangling wires attached to it.
Honestly, for more than the first half of the film I didn’t know where to place Kelly in all of this. Her obsession is far past a “normal” obsession of this type, but at first seems mild compared to Jeff, who proposes marriage to Tiffany through letters and by telephone on a regular basis. What adds to this is the lack of direction the film takes, in particular at first, in bringing it all together as one cohesive piece. Many scenes with Kelly turned out to be fascinating, and in retrospect her story is a far different and more emotionally charged version of Jeff’s.
What’s more is that when these two characters’ stories actually cross paths, in what amounts to the climax of the film, Kelly becomes a vehicle for exposing more about Jeff. The stark differences between the two become more apparent. Watching them interact is nothing short of complete and total insanity – their conversations seem almost unreal. I can’t say enough about how well that contrast works.
Despite minor problems which at first seemed major, I Think We’re Alone Now took one of the biggest 180′s I’ve ever seen, in terms of reversing a criticism I initially held, and turned out to be an enthralling little documentary. Though falling short of the similar, brilliant documentary about obsession Marwencol, it manages to present a pretty captivating and thought-provoking story.
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