I recently signed up for Netflix, and I’ve been loving the music documentaries on there. Recently I’ve watched great stuff like I Need That Record, about indie record stores and the music industry, as well as Until the Light Takes Us, about those wacky Norwegians and how they love to listen to metal and burn down churches.
I was at a little gathering the other night with some members of The Browntones and Shooting Guns, and Steve Reed from Shooting Guns suggested I check out I Think We’re Alone Now. Yes, you placed that title correctly — it was the hit song from 80s teenage mall tour celebrity, Tiffany. Thanks Steve; it was a great recommendation. The movie only clocks in at about an hour, but it was a quirky look into stalking and obsession.
The story follows two different men who are stalking Tiffany as she navigates her post-success life, doing shows at state fairs and porno conventions (she was in Playboy some years back). Jeff Turner is a 50-year-old man with Asperger’s Syndrome, which basically means he can retain all sorts of information, but he has trouble reading social cues from people. He is convinced that he and Tiffany are great friends that go way back. He seems like a nice enough guy throughout most of the movie. Kelly McCormick is a 38-year-old hermaphrodite that became obsessed with Tiffany after taking a conk to the head (that explains it!). He is a bit scarier than Turner, mostly because he has anger issues and seems to really believe that he and Tiffany were meant to be together.
The movie is full of interesting anecdotes, but perhaps one of the most telling is the story of Turner being arrested for showing up at a Tiffany show with a sword and flowers. Of course, that seems downright scary when I say it that way; however, he doesn’t understand what the fuss is all about. He says, somewhat confusedly, “Presenting someone with a katana and six white chrysanthemums is the highest honour you can give someone in Japan.”
The movie starts out strong, stumbles briefly with some choppiness, and then kicks back into high gear towards the end as they put Turner and McCormick together in a Vegas hotel room at a Tiffany show. Then it just becomes bizarre. Sure, it’s humourous, because it’s a movie about people who just want Tiffany to love them (and who would want that?) — but it’s also a sad portrait of mental illness, something that isn’t all that funny.
It might be easy for someone to call a movie like this “exploitive”, but I don’t think it was. It isn’t urging us to laugh at them — it’s merely showing their lives as they are. Watching stuff like this, not avoiding it, is how we come to a place where we can understand each other. That being said, watching the ending, with the two men (well, sort of) arguing over who loves Tiffany more is like watching crazy talk to crazy. It’s surreal. But the next time I read an article about some crazy stalker, it’ll be easier for me to realize that it’s a real person, who most likely needs help.
It’s not the greatest doc of all time or anything, but for music and pop culture geeks, as well as those with any interest in mental illness, I Think We’re Alone Now is an interesting movie with some good access to its subjects.
CFCR Board Member