2 out of 4 stars
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Rough Cut is an autobiography of Alan "Ag" Ageloff's life. Although he spent time in the military and in real estate, the pages flow with his main inspiration: the film business. From a young age Alan worked in the film industry, working his way up into becoming a professional editor with enough esteem and skill to start his own business in New York and call the shots for himself.
Alan's love of film is shown in numerous ways throughout the book. Not only is a large part of the autobiography focused on his film days, he uses numerous film-related metaphors and phrases throughout the book. He also often "turns to the camera" to explain what was going on in a particular moment, bringing to mind famous asides or monologues from movies like Ferris Bueller's Day Off or Blazing Saddles. It's clear Alan has a fondness for film even today, and that passion is awesome to see.
The stories and characters in the book ranged from totally relatable to totally wild. For example, we can all relate to having a job where it's just completely impossible to move up the ladder no matter how good of an employee we are, like Alan with his early work in film. Many of us also can relate to a job where we're forced to work off the clock to get a job done, as Alan did to edit a ridiculous amount of film into a narrative. But maybe we haven't all cold-called a low-level, possibly-schizophrenic mobster on the run from the police to list his home for sale, or found out our business partner had over $100,000 worth of drugs that they were using to get business!
Despite some rather fascinating stories, they were few and far between. I really feel like the book would've worked better as a collection of short stories than one long one. While Alan shows some tremendous skill at times with his phrasing and there's some great humor in the book, there are other moments that jump ahead wildly or fail to set up what's going on to such an extent that I had whole paragraphs where I had no idea what exactly was going on. There are also dialogue scenes where it isn't specified who's talking on each line, but then it seems like the same person speaks in two separate lines in a row, making it impossible to know who's actually speaking each line. Worst of all, the last story (one of the best ones, and easily the craziest) literally had another story right in the middle of it without anything to show that's what was going on!
Rough Cut was a perfectly fitting title for Alan's autobiography. It's put together, it makes sense (for the most part), but it could have used a lot more polish. There were grammatical errors throughout the book, scenes weren't always set up in a way that made sense and sometimes it just moved too fast. With some more attention and editing (something Alan is a master of!) the book could be excellent. While I'd give it 1.5 stars if I could, there are enough interesting stories to make my official rating 2 out of 4 stars. If you're interested in the film industry in the 1950s and 1960s (maybe more, but the author doesn't really specify time), Rough Cut may be something you should check out.
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