I THINK WE’RE ALONE NOW is an hour long documentary following Jeff and Kelly, two fans of the ’80s teen pop singer Tiffany. While most of us forgot Tiffany existed until we read that she was teaming with Debbie Gibson for MEGA PYTHON VS. GATOROID, these two remained dedicated fans the whole time. Jeff continued to follow her career long after she fell off the map. He went to all her shows around Santa Cruz, went to every autograph show she did, collected magazine articles, wrote her letters, etc. And by etc. I mean that in ’88 he got arrested at a courthouse trying to give Tiffany some flowers and a samurai sword, and the year after that she got a restraining order against him. In the opening scene he sarcastically reads an old magazine article about it and laughs when they use his full name and call him a “stalker.” He thinks the whole thing has been blown out of proportion. But, you know, most of us don’t end up in any situations that could be blown into those particular proportions.
So this isn’t just a big nerd who’s taking a celebrity crush a little too far. He’s literally one of those weirdos (or “wackadoos” as he would say) who you read little blurbs about in the newspaper and get creeped out. This movie is amazing because it peers into the life of this guy and makes him sympathetic.
At first Jeff doesn’t seem crazy. He just seems like one of those old retired guys who talks too damn much. He says he has Asperger’s Syndrome, and that’s why he’ll go up to strangers and tell them in detail about “a bunch of lesbians” climbing on stage the last time Tiffany played the Santa Cruz boardwalk and what the security guards did about it, or hold up a musical performance at church to tell the guitar player about his experiences at a nude model autograph show and how everyone there was filled with Christ’s love. He’s the type of guy who will laugh about not being one of those weirdos asking for a lock of hair, a fingernail or a scab moments before admitting that he might actually do that but just hasn’t gotten around to it yet. But he’s not some freaky Jeffrey Dahmer or Charles Manson type. If there was a movie about Jeff he’d have to be played by Fred Willard – he’s exactly that type of friendly, outgoing, corny guy, sharing too much information but with enthusiasm and a big laugh that’s contagious. And that makes it even more uncomfortable when you’re laughing with him and then he starts talking about his friendship with Tiffany or that he prays for her husband or whatever.
Kelly hasn’t gotten as close to Tiffany, she hasn’t gotten arrested for her or tried to give her a deadly weapon. But honestly she seems like more of a mess than Jeff. She looks like a transexual, but claims to be a hermaphrodite who identifies as a woman, and she’s not really good at passing so she obviously has some trouble fitting in. She says when she was a teenager she had a bicycle accident that put her in a coma, and when she woke up the first thing she heard was a song from Tiffany. She hadn’t heard of Tiffany before but had her sister bring her a photo and ever since then has felt she was meant to be with her. Luckily she hasn’t showed up at Tiffany’s house or anything, but she does seem very serious about this and gets real emotional talking about it.
Both Jeff and Kelly have friends who talk to the cameras and vouch for them as being good people. Jeff, for example, has a friend who also has Asberger’s Syndrome, he admits that Jeff is eccentric but talks about what a good friend he is to anyone and how he’s always positive and makes you feel good about yourself. And that really comes through in the movie, you can definitely see that, he seems like a really nice and funny guy.
Then the friend starts saying crazy shit and you think whoah, wait a minute, weren’t you supposed to be the normal person vouching for this guy? They’re both into Tesla and shit, and Jeff shows us his helmet that’s specially tuned for him to, you know, communicate with Tiffany spiritually, even more than he normally does due to the connection he already has with her. (It’s worse if you watch the deleted scenes, which reveal that Jeff’s friend believes Jeff and Tiffany were arranged to marry each other by distant Lebanese cousins but that Tiffany’s parents pulled out of the deal because they thought Jeff wasn’t successful enough and that’s why he’s still stuck on her.)
Then, part way through the movie, Jeff and Kelly meet, and they take a trip to Vegas together to see Tiffany at a casino. Kelly is at a really low moment in her life and it makes you appreciate Jeff more to see how nice and encouraging he is to her. She’s really just such a bummer to be around, but he stays upbeat and tries to get her spirits up. It seems like when he just talked to her on the phone he might’ve hoped he was gonna get lucky, and was disappointed to see that she’s kind of like a dude. (He calls her a “him” because “when you’re dealing with a hermaphrodite you get to choose.”) But he also seems immediately accepting of her, and his sweetness and craziness are combined when he tells her he’s going to talk to put in a good word for her with Tiffany’s people.
There are three or four scenes in the movie where Jeff sees Tiffany face to face and talks to her, and more than once I had to cover my eyes. This is an incredibly uncomfortable movie at times – it honestly made me cringe alot more than HUMAN CENTIPEDE did. But it really shows you the tragedy of the situation. These two are obviously mentally ill and have had problems going back to at least their relationships with their Vietnam vet fathers. They’re lonely and confused and they’re gonna fixate on something, and for both of them it happened to be this red-headed girl going around singing in malls in the late ’80s. They called that music “bubble gum” because it was inconsequential, pre-packaged, designed for kids, nothing but air in the middle. But to these two troubled individuals she represented something more important than anything else in the world, and that’s kind of freaky. I honestly believe that both of them are harmless, but then again I could be wrong. Anybody in Tiffany’s situation would be wise to get the fuck out of there just to be safe. I kind of wish she had kept the samurai sword for protection. And also because it would look cool if she was singing at casinos with a sword on her back. Jeff might’ve had the right idea about that, I’m starting to see what he was going for with that. Anyway there’s one scene where Kelly gets really pissed off that nobody seems to be living in this same reality where she’s destined to be with Tiffany, and she really seems pretty scary for a minute there.
Believe it or not I actually kind of know a guy who gets similarly obsessed with young female singers. He’s more obviously mentally impaired than these guys and he’s very childlike. He’s just kind of a goofball when you’re talking to him but he always knows how to throw you a curveball to make you squirm, like asking you why the security for the Indigo Girls are so rude. Every time to talk to him you find some new piece of strangeness going on in his head, like for example he wants Elvis to use karate on his dad and he holds a violent grudge against a guy who played a saxophone solo he hated at a Gordon Lightfoot concert in the ’70s. But the more you talk to him the more you see that he’s just a big baby who doesn’t know any better. You become protective of him, you worry that other people see what a big weirdo he is but don’t see that he means well. If he got busted trying to give a samurai sword to Jewel I’d think oh, you guys don’t understand, he’s not gonna do anything. But I’m sure somebody thought that about other stalkers that really did snap. You really don’t know if they’re, like DMX said, gonna lose their minds up in here up in here.
But it’s not just a scary movie. It’s sweet too. Jeff and Kelly somehow manage to talk to Tiffany after the show and get their pictures taken, and for Kelly it’s like a religious experience. It really seems like these two nutballs are gonna help each other out, as Kelly seems almost ready to accept kissing Tiffany on the cheek as good enough and Jeff raves about her non-judgmental love like she’s Jesus. And I started to almost believe that as long as they kept their distance this might be a good thing, that a little gesture from this poor lady could bring such profound joy to their broken lives. But of course it’s not gonna work out. Jeff goes into another one of his stories about “I remember the first time Tiffany reached out and kissed me on the cheek in front of over five hundred people” blah blah blah and Kelly gets jealous and snaps at him. I guess you can’t always expect two insane people to have a healthy friendship.
I believe this movie is sincerely meant as a humanizing portrait and not a freak show. I do think there’s one scene that probly should’ve been cut out. After a long intro where Kelly talks about her life being based around running and athletics she does a demonstration of her running skills that’s straight out of NAPOLEON DYNAMITE or something, and you realize she’s not good at the one thing she thinks she’s good at. I mean, it’s funny, but I don’t see any reason to put it in there other than to laugh at or be freaked out by her. So that was a little mean. You could make the same argument for the scene where she does a terrible impression of Hans and Franz from Saturday Night Live, but at least that scene shows that she can laugh and have fun and not just mope like she does in most of the movie. It made me uncomfortable but kind of made me like her more too.
There’s alot that’s mysterious about the movie. There are two commentary tracks on the DVD, but one is Jeff and one is Kelly, there’s nothing from the filmatists. So I’m not sure how they found out about these people, if hooking up Jeff and Kelly was completely their doing, or most importantly what Tiffany thinks of all this. Does she not realize this is the guy who tried to give her the sword that she had the restraining order against? Does she realize it and just try to get through these encounters? Or has she decided he’s harmless and learned to just deal with him? I have no idea.
But whatever exactly is going on I thought it was fascinating to watch and it brought me through the gamut of emotions. It’s interesting people in a world I never knew existed. It even has some nice looking digital photography, they’ve gotten much better with that these days. That adds up to good hour long documentary.
I gotta say though (SPOILER) the ending is a bit of a downer. Fuckin weirdo Jeff fakes you out by saying all this stuff like he’s realized the error of his ways, then you find out he’s just starting over with a new obsession. Hint #1: if you look his name up on Google you can find out which celebrity has a restraining order against him now. Hint #2: He doesn’t seem to understand why it’s weird for him to send Alyssa Milano’s parents a card for their 40th wedding anniversary.
Why not a trailer?
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.