"The Definition of Insanity by Frank Matter and Robert Margolis is an intense portrayal of the inner workings of the market place called American Showbiz. It's a character study about an actor gradually losing touch with reality in the tough acting scene of New York. The documentary style..., including the use of real names and real-life persons like Jonas Mekas and Peter Bogdanovich, is artfully employed to put the audience through the same state of insecurity (as the characters in the film)."
Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Zurich, Switzerland
"Robert Margolis --who writes, directs and stars-- takes a stingingly critical look at the self-delusions of a struggling New York thespian, playing the character himself and using his own name. The low budget indie mockumentary follows him through a heartrending series of failed auditions, tantalizing hopes, and humiliating, botched opportunities. Margolis is desperate for the break that will catapult him into stardom - and he may actually have the talent to deserve it - but it's clear to both the viewer and everyone else in the film that he's headed for disaster. The film's bitterly funny dialogue, plus Margolis' naivete, bullheaded determination, and total lack of responsibility, all add up to a package reminiscent of Robert De Niro's psychotic stand up from The King of Comedy."
The Onion, Minneapolis, USA
"In my modest opinion, The Definition of Insanity by Frank Matter and Robert Margolis (Switzerland/USA 2004) is the best film shown in the competition of the 2005 Bergamo Film Meeting. Shot in a style that consciously makes it look like a documentary, the film follows the aspiring actor Robert (Margolis, in a great performance) in his increasingly breathless quest to get an offer, a role, a contract. (...) The Definition of Insanity is brilliantly structured, fluently narrated, and pulsating with meaningful situations and significant characters, even if in fleeting appearances. The film succeeds in showing the audience the precarious delicacy of a profession and an environment where Robert (and who knows how many others) persists in cultivating his ambitions; even if that carries the risk of making a loser or a misfit out of himself. How far from the lights on Broadway, the heaven of Hollywood! For many people reality is a bitter nothing, and their professional and existential balance sheet is deeply in the red."
Mario Milesi, Nuovo Giornale di Bergamo, Bergamo, Italy
"Ironic cinema, an engaging labyrinthic tale..."
"This film is ingeniously structured and effectively edited. It was shot over the course of 18 months in New York, with a small budget, but with so much authenticity that one is constantly wondering what's fiction and what's real. Exuberance and desperation are played so convincingly by the main character (Robert Margolis) that the audience has a hard time believing that the film is not entirely autobiographical..."
Solothurner Zeitung, Solothurn, Switzerland
"Not that this is some new phenomenon or anything, but Robert Margolis and Frank Matter's festival hit The Definition of Insanity tweaks (the reality genre) in a way that actually uses exploitation and melodrama to its advantage." (Read the full review)
The Reeler on IndieWire.com, New York
"... an independent production with a fascinatingly original voice... ironic, unpretentious filmmaking that gets under the skin. (The style) fits the subject: the obsession of an actor named Robert (played by Margolis) to get the one great role that could jump-start his career... How much of it is based on his own life and experience is anybody's guess. But in any case, what (the filmmakers) have skillfully put together under one big narrative arch, feels authentic and shrewd."
Der Landbote, Winterthur, Switzerland
"In a surprising upset, Margolis and Matter’s Definition of Insanity took both jury and audience awards. (at the Virginia Film Festival). This “mockumentary,” chronicling a year in the life of a struggling, not-overly-talented New York actor, looks at show business with such brutal, unflinching honesty that it tends to induce as much discomfort as laughter. As the protagonist, Margolis creates a lovably engaging character whom audiences are willing to follow even as he descends into his own private hell."
MetroHerald, Virginia, USA
"The hero of this film is truly everyone who has ever held on to anything far past its time. Robert Margolis plays this perennially unemployed actor who is looking for that one perfect role that will finally get his career on the fast track. He has a beautiful wife and baby boy who need his attention, but despite his best intentions, he is unable to give much energy or money to anything outside his dream. This film uses the mock documentary style to perfection as we follow Robert on his pilgrim’s progress through the New York actor’s world of casting agents, acting classes, staged readings and audition after audition. Once I realized that this wasn’t an actual documentary, I was captivated by the unflinching eye that is cast on this struggling guy’s dilemma."
Malley Heinlein, 100.1 FM-WDST/Radio Woodstock, USA
"An impressive faux-documentary..."
Swiss National Public Radio (Channel 2), Basel, Switzerland
"The events that bookend this year’s Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival are more than appropriate. On opening night, Don McKellar’s satirical Childstar worked to tear down the artificial world of professional Hollywood. And this weekend, to close out the festival, Robert Margolis and Frank Matter’s The Definition of Insanity is the pained, but ultimately optimistic, counterpoint to McKellar’s cynicism. Margolis and Matter’s vision is an intimate, unfiltered view of the trench warfare known as today’s acting scene. It is a grueling daily grind, in which actors seek out auditions in desperation and even friends and lovers exist more as business connections than three-dimensional people.
At its center is Margolis himself, begging the question of whether the film is inspired by the stories of real-life actors or if this is, in fact, the heartbreaking record of Margolis’ trials and tribulations. This is in large part due to Margolis’ convincing variety of emotions. On some days, he embodies the enthusiasm of an actor who believes he has finally turned the corner with his career. On others, he sags with the rejection of a man who has been subjected to more than his fair share of humiliation. Sometimes, he struts down the street with the force of a dreamer who is too determined, or foolhardy, to quit. Along the way, he suffers every emotion imaginable between these extremes. There’s something operatic about this man’s plight, and both Margolis and Matter manage the melodrama with a healthy balance of nonjudgmental empathy."
Minnesota Daily, Minneapolis, USA
"The Definition of Insanity by Frank Matter and Robert Margolis is a mature achievement. It's a drama about a New York actor who is still running after that one great role and thereby risks losing not only his family, but also his sanity. It's a story that re-interprets the land of opportunity as the land of unfullfilled dreams -- in such an authentic and formally intricate way that it makes one think that this quasi-documentary work is a clever act of self-liberation."
Aargauer Zeitung, Aarau, Switzerland
"The premiere (of Definition of Insanity) represents a promise for the future (of Swiss filmmaking). The film is atmospherically dense and full of subtle irony..."
"One of the highlights of the Solothurn Film Days."
Berner Zeitung, Berne, Switzerland
"A film diary about enthusiasm and disappointment, self-confidence and humiliation. Although billed as a work of fiction, the filmmakers use documentary techniques: handheld camera, characters talking to the camera and frozen images create a high degree of cinematic authenticity. By telling an individual story, The Definition of Insanity is posing broader questions: How far do I go to realize my dreams? And what am I willing to sacrifice for my passion?"
Tagesanzeiger, Zurich, Switzerland
"... its aesthetic quality, energy and originality is... an achievement."
Der Bund, Berne, and St. Galler Tagblatt, St. Gallen, Switzerland
"Robert's high-wire act between hope, humiliation and despair ... brings up questions that are on everybody's mind: How far would I go to realize my dreams?"
Neue Luzerner Zeitung, Lucerne, Switzerland