When he's ousted as a fraud, reality television host and survivalist, Tex Montana, sets out to prove to everyone that he is the man that he says he is. Only taking with him the essentials and a camera, Tex Montana plans to document his ability to survive out in the wilderness.
Newcomer Jeremy Gardner seemed to grab the attention of the independent world when he released “The Battery”, seemingly out of nowhere. Now he’s back, with his cohort Christian Stella, for their take on the found-footage movie “Tex Montana Will Survie!”.
Mocking TV-survivalist Bear Grylls, and some of the controversy surrounding his American reality show, “Tex Montana Will Survive!”, is about the titular Tex Montana — a TV host who teaches viewers about surviving out in the wilderness. After being exposed as a fraud, Tex heads out into the woods with a camera to prove that he is the man he says that he is. Unfortunately, Tex ends up in over his head and becomes lost in the woods.
After “The Battery”, it’s no surprise that Gardner (and Stella) have taken on the found-footage genre with a much different approach. There’s still nothing here for those who dislike found-footage films but I’m not sure if the aficionados will find much to enjoy either. Not because “Tex Montana Will Survive!” is a bad movie. It’s a great movie, actually…for what it is.
“Tex Montana Will Survive!” is deceivingly simple and it appears that there is no narrative, but story wise, the film is well done. While simple, the story is great — it’s the self-destruction of a delusional actor who fancies himself as the man he portrays on TV. And they manage to tell his entire story through the interactions Tex Montana has with his camera, and himself really. So there is a story here, and an obvious character arc as well, but the film was made through the editing of improvisation. For a viewer to enjoy and appreciate “Tex Montana Will Survive!” they have to enjoy that kind of formate — likely Gardner and Stella had an outline of what the movie would be but let Gardner improvise the actual scenes.
Because of that, you have these oddly profound scenes where Gardner’s character has moments of self-realization through insanity. Then you have complete nonsensical moments of Tex Montana shouting gibberish and making random noises while he slowly appears from behind a rock, only to slowly retract behind said rock. At times the movie can feel like a random collection of scenes featuring Jeremy Gardner doing nothing more than saying absurd things for a laugh. Yet as ridiculous and nonsensical as those scenes can get, they work in favor of the film’s greater purpose of telling a story about a crestfallen TV-celebrity and his desperate attempt to cling to his fading fame. For all the amusing and just plain goofy moments, there is this rather depressing journey of Tex Montana and the deconstruction of this facade he created of himself.
In one of the more powerful scenes of the movie, Tex Montana starts talking about the effective ways of killing yourself by shooting yourself in the head. And it looks as though if he's actually going to pull the trigger. It's easy enough to see this scene as a moment of Tex giving up from being lost in the woods and is starving. But it becomes more about Gardner's character being frightened by the fact that he's losing control of the 'Tex Montana' persona (and having to face reality) and that it's slipping further, and further away from him.
The unorthodox nature of “Tex Montana Will Survive!” will definitely limit the audience as a viewer has to be comfortable with a stripped-down movie that’s built out of improv. I see this film as being a love it or hate it kind of a movie because the style and the humor, from my point-of-view, appeals to a very specific taste. For me, the humor hit the mark and I enjoyed watching Tex Montana go insane over the course of the runtime. But when it started to reach the end, I began to appreciate that there was more to the film than absurd humor. That there was an emotional core about a person finding himself due to his misguided ambition brought on by his own delusions of grandeur.