It’s tricky reviewing a friend’s movie.

Luckily, David Meiklejohn’s new documentary, “My Heart Is an Idiot,” is really good.


See, in the interest of full disclosure (and to make myself seem cool), I should say that Meiklejohn and I used to work together at Videoport. (I still do.) Meiklejohn made this movie, which follows Davy Rothbart, the founder of Found magazine, on several speaking tours as he tries to sort out his complicated love life.

In the “self-indulgent, yet ultimately winning search for love” documentary genre, “MHIAI” falls comfortably somewhere between Ross McElwee’s whimsical classic “Sherman’s March” and Eric Schaeffer’s nakedly revealing series “I Can’t Believe I’m Still Single.” Rothbart comes across both as a shaggy hipster doofus and a genuine romantic, a manipulative exhibitionist and a yearning dreamer.

Meiklejohn adds some inventive touches (model vehicles on a hand-drawn map, an old tape recorder visualizing an awkward interview) and, as part of Rothbart’s (and the film’s) quest for answers, the star gathers advice from an eclectic selection of people (Tommy Chong, Newt Gingrich, Ira Glass, Zooey Deschanel) alongside the gradually revealed entanglements of Rothbart’s love life.

It’s a thoughtful, consistently surprising film destined, I’m certain, for national recognition. Its Maine premiere Monday at the Nickelodeon Cinemas in Portland will have both Meiklejohn and Rothbart on hand to field your questions. I talked with Meiklejohn, who just returned to town after a cross-country series of screenings (see for details).

There’s a “whoa” moment a half-hour into the film which forces us to re-evaluate our impression of Rothbart. Was that revelation always part of your cinematic plan?

The documentary was originally just about Found, but we gradually realized it was more about love. Davy saw he was too close to the subject, so it became my project. So it was my decision, for dramatic reasons, to introduce that revelation at that point. It definitely shows how there are aspects of Davy that are compartmentalized, and not necessarily in a healthy way.

What drives people to relentlessly exhibit their personal lives?

On one hand, it’s admirable how open Davy is about his mistakes, in his life and his work, the things he might be ashamed of. I’m not saying it’s entirely noble, but it definitely makes for good art.

What’s next for the movie?

This tour is like a mating ritual, with me trying to seduce distributors, to create momentum that will put the film on their radar, which will hopefully lead to a cinematic and DVD release.

All right, so what have you learned about love from all this?

It just reaffirms how important honesty is, both with your partner and yourself. I thought I knew that before, but seeing what they go through in the movie really drives that home. Nobody is infallible when it comes to love. Davy’s a great example of that — no matter how pure his intentions.

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.


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