Three New Yorkers — television writer Rebecca Shaw, comedian Val Bodurtha and writer Sophie Mann — visit famed Times Square tourist attraction Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. They discover that the museum allows attendees to suggest celebrities to immortalize. The trio seizes the opportunity to start a campaign to get famed award-winning character actor Paul Giamatti his own statue.
The grassroots campaign goes viral, garnering national media attention and even the notice of the museum itself. But just when recognition of Giamatti’s versatility and stealth cultural icon presence seems on the horizon, the team gets an unexpected wrench in the process, and the campaign itself takes an unexpected turn as the three women take matters into their own hands.
Directed by Shaw, Bodurtha and Mann, this short comedy mockumentary is both a sincere paean to an actor notable for his versatility, omnipresence and consistently compelling performances and a sardonic, hilarious comment on the notion of celebrity itself.
Like many mockumentaries, the storytelling approaches its narrative in a loose, energetic way, setting up both a philosophical question and a narrative one. Just what makes a person worthy of the Madame Tussaud treatment? And will Paul Giamatti ever get his statue?
The quasi-journalistic format captures not just a personality or endeavor, but the responses it generates — here, from the Madame Tussaud museum itself and the culture at large, as a swell of fans arise to celebrate and campaign for a generally unassuming, hard-working character actor.
There’s also light-hearted silliness, of course, in organizing a “cause” around getting Paul a wax statue, which perhaps offers a comment on democracy, celebrity and the nature virality itself. But the funny thing is: the campaign begins to work, as the three creatives gain media attention for their cause. It seems even the museum is onboard — until they aren’t.
From there, the film blurs the lines between reality and fiction, as the three women take matters into their own hands. The action gets even funnier and more ridiculous as the women continue their efforts to immortalize Paul. (Male strippers are involved.) The culminating action is full of suspense, tension and obstacles, and their efforts get more drastic, all to get Paul Giamatti his statue.
Genial, affectionate and mischievous all at once, “Wax Paul Now” ends with a cheeky, delightful payoff. But it works overall because it combines a fascinating take on fandom and celebrity with a genuine love for Paul Giamatti, a fine actor and consummate professional with a storied career, who does deserve celebration for his contributions to art and culture.
The hilarity arises not because celebrating Paul Giamatti is a ridiculous notion — the actor has won an Emmy and been nominated for an Oscar, after all — but because the campaign applies considerable energy and ingenuity to celebrating Giamatti in the form of a wax statue. It hints at other ways that acumen and drive can be applied, and perhaps questions the notion of wax statues in the first place. But the overall feeling is one of deep affection and warmth, where everyone is in on the joke. The punchline is very cleverly placed to highlight what deserves celebration. and ever so gently question why decency, talent and excellence don’t get more of it.