on May 29, 2004
The Patsy, Lewis' fifth film as a director and one of his best, can be considered as a semi-sequel to both The Bellboy (his first) and The Errand Boy (his third). Like its two predecessors, it features a confrontation between a complete outsider (always played by Lewis) and a lavish, illusionistic and mercantile milieu. As in all of his films, the interplay between 'Lewis the artist' (a natural performer whose inventiveness knows no bounds) and 'Lewis the star' (has more swagger, aggressiveness and self-confidence but far less freedom) is central here. It takes place in a single character (named Stanley as in The Bellboy) whose road to stardom is as unexpected and multi-layered as Morty's was in The Errand Boy. In many ways, the artist-star conflict is resolved in the postmodern conclusion: Lewis' choice to equal Stanley with himself - and The Patsy's world with 'reality' - implies that the true star-artist is finally made possible. Some of the movie's set pieces - Stanley's first appearance, the singing lesson, the silent flashback, the failed stand-up performance - are among the most effective of Lewis' filmography, seamlessly weaving together the sophisticated and the grotesque. A very impressive film from an underrated filmmaker.