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A look inside Hollywood and the movies : Talking 'Bout His Generation : Robert Downey Jr. Hopes His '92 Campaign Documentary Inspires Involvement

September 05, 1993|MONICA YANT

With two directors, three producers and a Hollywood narrator-star all too young to run for President themselves, the documentary "The Last Party" looks at the 1992 election from the perspective of the young, spirited and fed-up.

The movie, to be released by Triton Pictures in Los Angeles and New York Friday, highlights 28-year-old Robert Downey Jr.'s political coming-of-age as it picks the brains of socially conscious celebrities like Spike Lee, Sean Penn and Mary Stuart Masterson--and normal folk--during four months of cross-country shooting.

Directors Mark Benjamin and Marc Levin capture drug dealers and rap artists, feminists, topless dancers and embittered AIDS patients. "There's not much hope out there," mutters one young gang member. "It's as serious as a heart attack."

Downey maintains that he made the documentary as a call-to-arms for the disillusioned generation that was courted last year as "the youth vote."

"We were born during Vietnam. We were kids during Watergate, in our mid-teens for Irangate and we were all grown up for Desert Storm. We've only ever known a government that doesn't tell us the truth. So we've been taking it into our own hands to find our own truth," he declares at the start of the movie.

With heavy college promotions and a marketing campaign aimed at the 18-to-25 crowd, the movie might do just that. Spots for the film have already popped up on the ever-political MTV and in college and teen publications--all designed to capture the "1960s spirit" that '90s youth seem to be embracing, according to Bob Berney, senior vice president of marketing and distribution at Triton Pictures.

He added that MCA Records may even help promote the movie "in tandem" with one of its young grunge bands Sativa Luv Box, whose single, "U Got It All Wrong," is heard at the beginning of the film.

"I do hope (the film) inspires some people in our generation to get involved," said the 28-year-old Downey in a recent telephone interview.

The actor, seen this summer in "Heart and Souls," is quick to admit he has no expectations for "Last Party" as a commercial success, instead downplaying it as "an odyssey which represents, if nothing more, a time capsule for my children."

But much of the time in this capsule shows the star as temperamental and unwilling to listen to the varying viewpoints he so happily solicits.

The project is full of Downey witticisms about everything from the chaos of a greedy Wall Street trading floor to his inability to find a decent sandwich at the Democratic convention. Indeed, some of the film's funniest moments involve Downey's off-the-cuff impersonations of candidates and the circus nature of the political arena: "It's a 12-step platform this year--one nation under rehabilitation."

Downey readily acknowledges that any attempts to maintain a nonpartisan perspective in the film were thrown out the window almost immediately. "The young Republicans just buried themselves as soon as we turned on the camera," he said of the brief encounters with anti-abortion activists and convention-goers.

But if Downey's project looks like an ego-boost for someone with no shortage of self-confidence, it doesn't show. In his mind, "The Last Party" will sink or swim because of , not in spite of, the frustrated message it sends. That he happens to share the frustration is more a sign of the times than a calculated cinematic effort.

"It's definitely time for some new myths," Downey sighed. "Anyone out there living right now might be the next hero we need."

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