Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Shotgun Stories: Grade B

Shotgun Stories (2008)
Michael Shannon, Douglas Ligon, Barlow Jacobs; Writer-Director Jeff Nichols.

In contemporary rural Arkansas, three adult brothers are notified by their hateful mother that the despised father who abandoned them years ago has died. They attend the funeral where they encounter the three half brothers from the runaway father’s second family. These half-brothers seem to be a little better off economically, but such things are only relative in this poor community. The oldest of the abandoned brothers insults the memory of their father and spits on his grave, starting a family feud that begins as insults and threats, and over the weeks escalates to fistfights, knives and shotguns. It is a sensitive portrayal of character, not the shoot-em-up vendetta movie it is promoted as. You can feel the sweat running down your back in the hot, humid, rural settings. Characters move slowly and talk slowly. The writing is Faulkneresque in the way it portrays the rural south, the naivety and ignorance, yet sensitivity of its inhabitants. I don’t like Faulkner for that reason. It is just not very interesting to watch stupid people behave stupidly. Yet the acting is superlative, directing, sets, costumes are perfect, and the script is engaging and original, so the movie, while a bit too slow for me, never sags.

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