Published Oct 28, 2010A sly, wry documentary that finds humanity in Internet humiliation, Winnebago Man focuses upon Jack Rebney, an RV salesman prone to curse-laden freak-outs. One such outburst was caught on camera during the filming of a sales video in 1989 and became a duped VHS sensation.
Presented in the age of Star Wars kids and office rages posted on the Internet on a seemingly endless basis, Rebney's wrath may seem quaint. However, according to Steinbrauer, the "Winnebago Man" video was a cult classic of true-hilarity videos. But what happens to the poor saps that make these moments for us? Austin-based Ben Steinbauer finds out in Winnebago Man, and his subject reveals himself to be a surprisingly intriguing figure.
When we meet Rebney, he presents himself as mild-mannered but Rebney contacts Steinbauer to meet again, saying their previous meeting was a false representation. From here, Rebney and Steinbauer lock into a strange subject-observer relationship, with Steinbauer duelling with Rebney over a variety of mishaps, growing angrier and more complex as the film progresses.
Rebney almost comes across as a victim of bipolarity, while also intelligent and self-aware, if perhaps a bit behind the times. The sincerity and good intention of Steinbrauer's journey is questionable at the beginning; it's not always convincing that Steinbauer isn't just trying to pry another fit out of Rebney but his empathy grows with that of the audience.
Steinbrauer shows the warm fondness Rebney receives from fans when "Winnebago Man" is shown at a found-footage festival. Even as they laugh at him they're laughing at themselves; we've all had rages where we can barely speak, stamp around and throw stuff. We're just happy no one was there to see them, because I'm sure they would look just as goofy as Rebney's, but not nearly as funny. (Kinosmith)