by Edwin Jahiel

MY LIFE'S IN TURNAROUND *. Written, co-produced, directed by, and starring, Eric Schaeffer and Donal Lardner Ward. Photography, Peter Hawkins. Editing, Susan Graef. Also in cast: Lisa Gerstein, Dana Wheeler Nicholson, Debra Clein, Sheila Jaffe, John Dore, John Sayles, etc. An Arrow release. 84 min. Not rated.

At the age of 30, New York taxi driver Splick (Schaeffer) and his best pal, barman Jason (Ward), failures at experimental theatre and failures in everything else, decide --just like that -- to give meaning to their life by becoming filmmakers.

While they know nothing about movies -- and don't even like them -- they are dimly aware of some current independent moviemakers who made hit pictures on a shoestring, people like Whit Stillman ("Metropolitan " and "Barcelona"), Richard Linklater ("Slacker"), Robert Rodriguez ("El Mariachi"). But the boys are more like Beavis and Butt-Head, Ren and Stimpy or underbrained types from The Simpsons and other TV live or cartoon fare.

The film's opening minutes are somewhat intriguing and perhaps vaguely amusing -- in a smelly way. But after this all goes downhill, as the two guys (and their story)are so dumb that it is impossible to be interested or entertained by anyone or anything. When we meet the the undynamic duo we see, at best, indifferent nonentities. Rapidly they become unappealing idiots and then irritating creeps who not only have no clue as to what making a movie involves but cannot even figure out what their film might be about.

Everything is vague and hazy, from the men's encounters with others, to their peculiar relations with women -- relations that gauchely deal with male bonding and, perhaps hint of bisexuality.

"My Life..." is like one of those papers that kids often write after a teacher has assigned them to find their own topic. Unable to dream up any subject, they end up with a paper about how they could not find a subject.

In other words, the film itself reconstructs -- with small differences -- the real experiences of Schaeffer-Splick and Ward-Jason, as the "real" guys decide to becomes filmmakers, and so on. This makes the pair even more lamentable and their tedious movie a loser in most respects, including the technical : photography and sound are mediocre, colors are poorly matched from scene to scene, the camera can't stay in focus.

True, even the better efforts of independents who make shoestring-budget films may or may not contain flaws (at least by commercial standards), but when they do, those flaws are turned into something new and fresh. Witness the very films that the dunderhead duo mentioned at the film's start. It also happens that all those movies had something unusual and just right about the way their actors played, including amateurs, non-professionals and first-timers.

Here, however, although some of the supporting cast (mostly women) do an O.K. job, "heroes" Schaeffer and Ward are as inept as they are annoying. Their dialogues' gratuitous foulness grates, their performances are those of jerks who, for imagination and humor substitute would-be cute smugness and fatuousness.

Awkwardness of acting and film construction can be a plus if it involves naturalness, but here, instead of the look and feel of a documentary we get those of a third-rate school play.

Among the women in the movie, real-life sub-stars Phoebe Cates and Martha Plimpton appear briefly as themselves in passive roles. Cates is recognized by Splick in his cab, and he offers her a role. Light mirth is caused as she asks to see the script ("the scenario... you know") and baffles the man who proceeds with improvising an absurd story.

Later, the two buddies see Plimpton (a mere presence) in their hangout Broadway Cafe and Splick (the voluble one) relates to her an unprintable meeting in a sauna. No hilarity here.