They’re Out of the Business: Taking Self-Indulgence to a New Level


Resuscitating the semi-autobiographical navel-gazing of their 1993 breakthrough indie My Life’s in Turnaround, Eric Schaeffer and Donal Lardner Ward pick up with their respective alter egos, Splick and Jason, 18 years later, in They’re Out of the Business, still struggling to both solidify cinematic careers and find love. After Splick’s reality-TV show is canceled and Jason is dumped by his girlfriend, the duo re-team to seize a second chance at making a new movie (namely, this one). This primarily involves aimlessly wandering around New York City and plumbing Internet dating sites in search of Ms. Right, resulting in a low-budget, episodic, ’90s-ish saga consisting of social-media humor, porn encounters, and Schaeffer’s typical sub–Woody Allen, horndog-neurotic shtick. Deprecating self-referentiality runs rampant but is only sporadically amusing—as when an agent slams Schaeffer’s fondness for making “weird vanity sex movies just so you could make out with supermodels”—and the film’s climactic justifications for its own existence prove painfully strained. As with the revelation that Splick, for a PR stunt, has legally changed his name to Self Indulgent, the film’s recognition of its (and its makers’) own failings doesn’t stop them from being unbearably accurate.