Film Review: Winnebago Man (2009)


Winnebago doesn’t ask the internet-era philosophical questions straight-on, but rather takes an approach that is not discomforting, but still funny. It is about the Winnebago man, Jack Rebney, a trailer salesmen who has a series of rage-fits while filming a commercial for the trailer company; his camera-men find it comical after-the-fact, and it becomes an internet sensation, the Winnebago man being watched and re-watched with hilarity. The documentary hopes to find him, who is now similar to  J.D. Salinger with his enclosed wilderness life, and ask him how he feels about his life and what the out-takes of the trailer commercial has done to it: The filmmaker is never pushy, nor do we sense him restraining laughter behind the camera, and because of this it is a great study in the Winnebago Man’s true character, who is now very much blind.

He writes about the wrongness and spends time with his dog; he gets in a scary episode when he loses his track while walking in the forest, and he is often blunt and insensitive to the filmmaker, his shouting partly being done one senses out of his still-remnant desire to fill his character. The director says at one point “I feel like I’ve stepped inside the Winnebago outtakes”, and I instantly felt a sense of wrongness: Why give the internet-hounds what they want? Why can’t he be like Roger Corman, who seems like he’d be a pony-tail wearing madman, but instead is a quiet, intellectual-like figure; why can’t we exploit! But wait, how is that any different then what has been done? Nothing. We cannot change to please, nor change to displease, without it being untrue and disembodied: This is difficult in a world that adores, brands, and cherishes personalities. What is Youtube doing to culture? We’ll, not to worry I believe, because within a small amount of years people will be so practiced in the art of adoration that all the popular Youtube videos will be manufactured: Shaky camera, laughing in the background, all the necessities of a home-video will be remade in a studio: Why? For views. Commercials have already begun: Flo from progressive, the state farm danger man, and more are their for familiarity and laughs.

The movies ends on a strong note when the Winnebago man decides to talk at a fan-expo, and he realizes that them loving him is not so much out of ridicule, but genuine like of his character; how this could be possible, considering he was raging all over the place, we don’t know, but don’t question it. It will last as a strong, albeit multi-faceted, study of the man, but we must decide which character he plays is truly real: Will he hate that he spoke in front of people the next day? Who knows.

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