For most of us, costumes are a once-a-year thing, if that. For the would-be protagonists of the Matthew Ogens' 2006 documentary "Confessions of a Superhero," costumes are not only a way of life, but sometimes their sole existence.
The story focuses on Superman, Batman, The Incredible Hulk, and Wonder Woman, or at least their panhandling impersonators. In his documentary, Ogens seeks to get to the bottom of what their hopes and dreams are, and what draws them to being an impersonator on Hollywood Blvd over say, working at a McDonalds. I read a comment on the IMDB page that claimed that the people behind the costumes were "boring," and I found the exact opposite to be true. All four of the self-professed 'actors' are both remarkable and unremarkable in their own ways.
For example, Superman spends a lot of his time in character chiding the other performers for smoking cigarettes, but lights up himself in the comfort of his own home. Batman is a pathological liar who embellishes (read: completely makes up) his "dark past," but is a bit of an uncoordinated dork when he's shown in his martial arts training. Hulk almost brags about his former homelessness and insists that his teeth are the only reason that he's not famous, but is remarkably sober when talking about how bat-shit crazy Batman is. Out of all of these lost souls, the woman who acts as Wonder Woman stands out as the anomaly.
Unlike her counterparts, Jennifer Wenger had a relatively normal Southern existence, minus the fact that she gave up a life as an honor student and cheerleader to pursue acting, which ultimately landed her the Wonder Woman gig. Her normalcy ends up being an inadvertent focal point, coming to a head at a point where Superman convinces her that taking a shower in costume at his place will help cool her off on a hot summer's work day. If that sounds like softcore porn to you, it should, but I insist that it's not "like that." It's one of those truly bizarre scenes that has to be seen to be believed.
Artistically, this film is pretty standard, but interlaces some spectacular still photography throughout to really frame both the characters and the people behind them. I found the portrait of Superman chugging milk from the jug (above) to be the most striking, as it juxtaposes Superman's ultra-American image with the dumpy reality of an obsessed doppelganger. The film's pacing is a bit off, as there's a lot of detail to be packed in between the four stories. I also wish that the conflict between the cops and the performers was elaborated on a bit more, but the glimpses that you get are intriguing nonetheless.
Overall, "Confessions of a Superhero" is a gripping and enjoyable documentary about a very strange aspect of American culture, even if it's a bit of a bummer in the end. I'm not sure it's something you watch with a friend, but if you've got Netflix Insta-Watch and some time to spare, it's quite the slice of life to take in.