THE LAUNDROMAT – movie review

THE LAUNDROMAT
Netflix
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Screenwriter: Scott Z. Burns, Jake Bernstein, from Bernstein’s book “Secrecy World”
Cast: Meryl Streep, Antonio Banderas, Gary Oldman, Sharon Stone
Screened at: Park Ave., NYC, 10/10/19
Opened: September 27, 2019. October 18, 2019 streaming.

The Laundromat Movie Poster

You may think that the revelations of the Panama Papers in 2015 are ancient history, that they have little bearing on the world of 2019, but in the film’s conclusion—a manifesto by Meryl Streep who is in the principal role—Soderbergh is indicting the current administration on Capitol Hill and in the White House. He makes clear to those who are following politics today that the working class people who voted for Trump and support him to this day are being screwed over. They may think it’s great that Trump talks like ordinary people in our country, but that’s just a distraction. The government makes it possible for the rich to become richer, enabling them to avoid paying taxes (some billionaire corporations today pay no tax at all), and handing big business a major tax break that is increasing the deficit by $300 billion in just the past three years.

You don’t have to be familiar with the Panama Papers to understand this movie, though it helps..maybe. There are so many stories, such a load of subplots in the film that marks Steven Soderbegh’s coming out of retirement to direct once again, that you might be better off streaming it from Netflix when it becomes available October 18. In that way you can stop the proceedings, re-wind, and re-wind again. However because of the terrific editing job done by the director, the jumble of subplots congeal by the conclusion.
As stated in Wikipedia, The Panama Papers are 11.5 million leaked documents that detail financial and attorney–client information for more than 214,488 offshore entities. The documents, some dating back to the 1970s, were created by, and taken from, Panamanian law firm and corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca, and were leaked in 2015 by an anonymous source. The documents contain personal financial information about wealthy individuals and public officials that had previously been kept private. While offshore business entities are legal, some of the Mossack Fonseca shell corporations were used for illegal purposes, including fraud, tax evasion, and evading international sanctions.

Director Soderbergh, whose “The Informant!” shows the U.S. going after agro-business for price fixing, is surely following the political scene closely. Now he uses Meryl Streep in the key role of Ellen Martin, an elderly, biddie-ish woman caught in a tragic boating accident in New York State, suffering the loss of her husband Joseph David Martin (James Cromwell). Expecting to get a settlement from the boat company’s insurance, she learns of skullduggery involving the sale of the insurance company to a shell group, which is to say that the company exists only as a piece of paper and a mailbox somewhere outside of the U.S.

Avoiding broad comedy but instead relying on arch humor, Soderbergh piles on the tales of corruption. Ellen is cheated out of the Las Vegas condo that she wanted: it faced the area in which she had met her husband. Serving as a Greek chorus, Jürgen Mossack and Ramón Fonseca, played by Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas, meet us on screen in an array of bespoke suits, representing the law firm catering to the upper one percent, giving these corporations advice on laundering money (hence the picture’s title) avoiding taxes thereby. In the most interesting subplot, a rich, imposing gent originally from Africa cheats on his wife, his daughter threatening to tell her mother that dad has a whole separate married family. She is offered a $20 million company to keep quiet. Did she really get that amount, or is the company worth more like $100? A Chinese official poisons a British businessman, the Chongking police chief “in” on the situation, involved in the bribery. A character in a West Indian country is arrested at airport, fainting when he is confronted by the police.

Soderbergh brings together a group of people more interesting than we in the audience have ever met, all scalawags who evoke our smiles until we realize that each of us is too meek to do anything about it. Meryl Streep provides the picture’s greatest plot twist, waiting until the final minutes to cause us to gasp. For a better understanding of the bribery, tax evasion and money laundering, spend $12.64 at Amazon to get Jake Bernstein’s “Secrecy World,” drawing from millions of leaked documents, explaining how criminals are enabled by authorities who look the other way.

96 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – A-
Acting – B+
Technical – A-
Overall – B+

PARASITE – movie review

PARASITE (Gisaengchung)
Neon
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Screenwriter: Bong Joon-ho, Han Jin-won
Cast: Song Kang-ho, Choi Woo-shik, Chang Hyae-jin, Park So-dam, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Jung Ziso, Lee Jung-em, Jung Hyeon-jun
Screened at: Dolby, NYC, 10/8/19
Opens: October 11, 2019

Theatrical one-sheet for Bong Joon Ho's Parasite (2019).

Some say that the best way to disturb and undercut people like Trump is not to criticize him directly but to laugh at him, to consider his administration to be a clown show. Bong Joon-ho, the celebrated South Korean writer-director, would probably agree, though with his latest movie “Parasite,” the good guys act the clown part getting their digs at people who are richer and who think of them as merely useful servants. (Thin, of how an established white family has contempt for and uses their black servants in Jordan Peele’s “Get Out,” the best movie of 2017).

Bong’s “Okja” that same year tracks a young girl’s introducing of a beast to prevent a kidnapping by a multi-national company, and his “Snowpiercer” finding most people dead after a failed climate change experiment save for lucky people on a train who threaten class warfare. We have no doubt that class inequalities are on top of the fifty-year-old director’s mind. Now with “Parasite” Bong unfolds a combination comedy-horror tale, constructing the inevitable envy of the rich by the poor, the latter wanting either to emulate them or destroy them. The story is involving throughout with a doozy of a concluding half hour, a culmination well earned from the careful exposition.

Though South Korean people have an average income some thirty times that of the fellows north of the thirty-eighth parallel, there is considerable poverty in that country just as there is in ours. In the view of Bong and of his co-scripter Han Jin-won, the Kim family composed of patriarch Kim Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho), his wife Kim Chung-sook (Jang Hye-jin), his son Kim I-woo (Choi Wood-shik) and his pretty daughter Kim Ki-jung (Park So-dam), has good reason to envy the rich given their own bug-infested digs which are occasionally visited outside by a homeless man who urinates on their wall. However given dad’s flexible ethics, these folks have a way of exploiting the fabulously rich family of executive Mr. Park (Lee Sun-kyun). In a cuttingly humorous manner, 20-year-old Kim Ki-woo forges a college diploma and gets a job tutoring the daughter (Jung Ziso), a high-school sophomore, while Ki-woo’s dad becomes the CEO’s driver and mother uses her wiles to displace the long-term housekeeper. At the same time Ki-tak’s daughter gives “art therapy” to the Parks’ young and bratty kid, demanding a high wage because she can “discover” schizophrenic tendencies in the little kid and help him to overcome these. Through hook and crook, then the four poor folks have insinuated themselves into the huge and beautiful mansion high up in the city, though leaving the previous staff unemployed.

In an elegantly plotted movie, carefully preparing us step by step for the drama that will inevitably follow, Bong evokes terrific performances from the entire ensemble, giving his audience a stark picture of wealth inequality, a situation that Bong presumably believes to be the essence of corrupt capitalism. Hong Kyong-pyo films in the touristic city of Goyang, South Korea, his lensing deftly comparing the squalor of the Kim’s basement apartment with the exquisite residence of the Parks, with a classical music soundtrack serving to give the film the tone of an Asian Downton Abbey.

131 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B+
Acting – B
Technical – B
Overall – B+

DOLEMITE IS MY NAME – movie review

DOLEMITE IS MY NAME
Netflix
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Craig Brewer
Screenwriter: Larry Karaszewski, Scott Alexander
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Keegan-Michael Key, Mike Epps, Craig Robinson, Tituss Burgess, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Noop Dogg
Screened at: Dolby88, NYC, 10/3/19
Opens: October 4, 2019

Dolemite Is My Name Movie Poster

Eddie Murphy is back and back big! “Dolemite is My Name” is a vastly entertaining, noisy, chaotic and wonderful comedy which takes off from the principal character’s thesis that “Black people like explosions, car crashes and titties.” Sounds like something that transcends race, but in many ways, Craig Brewer’s biopic finds that blacks and whites may have different senses of humor. Never mind: spun by this mostly African-American cast, the jokes and situations can be universally understood and embraced.

Under the direction of Craig Brewer, the perfect guy for the task having made films like “Hustle & Flow” (Memphis pimp in midlife crisis tries to become a hip-hop emcee), Murphy anchors the comedy as a man down on luck. Like Terrence Howard’s character Dj in “Hustle and Flow,” Rudy Ray Moore is not satisfied being a mere record store clerk, eager to break out with his own music, frustrated that nobody would touch his singles. Moore is compelled to work a shift in a nightclub where he bombs. Unable to catch the attention he needs as either a singer or a stand-up comic, he runs into a homeless man who is a repository of stories, which Moore appropriates for his own nightclub act and voilá: he has his crowd screaming. The more obscene the better. When he can’t sell the disc to a local JD as it’s too dirty to put on the air, he successfully markets it from his car trunk. He takes on the name Dolemite, and he’s on his way up.

Moore, dressed in a huge array of costumes, the pimp-ier the better, excites his all African-American crowd. He hits on one Lady Reed (D’Vine Joy Randolph), convincing her to team up with him. He watches the movie “Front Page” in a theater with an appreciative white audience, looking around and wondering why he’s the only person who doesn’t get it. That gives him an idea. Why not open up a movie starring him, all-black cast, giving his target audience what they want most: white guys as baddies, taken down with karate chops and automatic gunfire, a sex scene (which, though meant to be romantic turns out hilarious), and all-around mayhem. Plans get realized when he rents a run-down hotel, hires white guys from the local film school who know how to put a movie together, and lands a celeb, D’Urville Martin (Wesley Snipes) to co-star with Moore and to direct.

Eddie Murphy is a spellbinder, set to rivet his real movie audience as he does the folks in the cast, a Horario Alger story, if you will, about picking yourself up from the ground, dusting yourself off, and making it big. With a large and delightfully vulgar ensemble, especially Wesley Snipes and Da’Vine Joy Randolph and lots of loud songs to keep our blood flowing, “Dolemite is My Name” is not only a blast but informs us about the rules of the marketing game and how they can be embraced and overturned as well.

117 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B+
Acting – A-
Technical – B+
Overall – B+

LUCY IN THE SKY – movie review

LUCY IN THE SKY
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Noah Howley
Screenwriter: Brian C. Brown, Elliott DiGuiseppi, Noah Hawley
Cast: Natalie Portman, Jon Hamm, Zazie Beetz, Dan Stevens, Zazie Beetz, Ellyn Burstyn
Screened at: Tribeca, NYC, 10/1/19
Opens: October 4, 2019

Lucy in the Sky Poster

Lucy Cola may be in the sky part of the time, but as storytelling, this Fatal-Attraction-like revenge fantasy lacks wings. Based on an actual tale of a female astronaut, Lisa Marie Nowak, who flew aboard Space Shuttle Discovery in 2006, Noah Howley’s dramatization follows her as she is floating on a mission, segueing into her romance with a handsome devil who dumped her, thereby leading to her going insane. Howley’s résumé cites him for directing TV series like “Cat’s Cradle” and “Fargo,” now delivering a freshman feature with a lot more ambition than one would expect from a director with that background.

Howley appears to make up for a lack of solid storytelling (he has two co-writers) for a wealth of cinematic tricks, almost all of which serve nothing more than to distract the audience. He would expand the screen when Lucy’s world opens up, then cut back on the aspect ratio when she is in the doldrums. Credit Natalie Portman with a class act as the title character—she is alternately seductive, pleading, violent, sensitive, running the gamut of emotions depending on the circumstances. As a larger-than-life woman, an astronaut, no less, you might expect her to be so satisfied with her profession, willing and even demanding to take on risky assignments, that she would never fall to murderous rage when a “ladies’ man” drops her for another.

Opening scenes may well remind you of “Ad Astra” and “Gravity,” a slow-moving triptych into outer space which finds Lucy looking exhilarated by her gig. She is like the type of person who risks his life in Afghanistan in 110 degrees, is sent back to the States with an honorable discharge, looks at one hundred cereal boxes in the supermarket, and heads right back to the fighting. He has a nice albeit irresolute husband Drew (Dan Stevens), a grandmother Nana Holbrook who like Maggie Smith’s Violet Crawley in “Downton Abbey” has an unlimited supply of witticisms. This earthbound life is simply not enough for someone who finds more thrills being alone in space.

During the second part of the film, in which Mark Goodwin (Jon Hamm), a fellow astronaut and womanizer hits on her, Lucy is smitten. She is head over heels as she might be when floating in space in the absence of gravity. She should have realized that this fellow is not the settling kind, but in a moment of sexual flush she kisses him, and the affair begins. Lucy will risk all for both her profession and her boyfriend, insisting on the administrator of the space program that she does not like the way he grounds her, taking the big chance of chucking her husband, going nuts, and losing all. In the final scene she is once again courting danger, a scene that should be seen as one providing a strong clue not just to her willingness, but to her real desire to be in danger.

126 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – C-
Acting – B+
Technical – B
Overall – C+

PAIN AND GLORY – movie review

PAIN AND GLORY (Dolor y Gloria)
Sony Pictures Classics
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Screenwriter: Pedro Almodóvar
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Asier Etxeandia, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Nora Navas, Julieta Serrano, César Vicente, Asier Flores, Penélope Cruz, Cecilia Roth, Susi Sánchez, Raúl Arévalo, Pedro Casablanc, Julián López
Screened at: Sony, NYC, 9/12/19
Opens: October 4, 2019

Image result for pain and glory movie poster

Dedicated Almodóvar fans may be disappointed with his latest venture, a thinly disguised biopic of his own life or, as the woman performing as his mother complains, afraid that auto-fiction will reveal too much. The director is known for pictures as daring as the titles such as his dark comedy “Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” (a woman seeks to discover the reason her lover left her); the romantic comedy “Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!” (a former mental patient kidnaps a porn star hoping to convince her to marry him); and the psychological thriller “The Skin I Live In” (a plastic surgeon experiments on a skin he develops to withstand damage). Now in his sixties Salvador (Antonio Banderas), standing in for Almodóvar, is wracked by ailments; by migraines, tinnitus, back pain after spinal surgery, and near the conclusion a potential tumor causing him to choke on food and drink. Aside from his physical pain, he feels isolated. His health prevents him from making movies, work which keeps him going and which, when halted, leaves him feeling isolated (as he shows early on immersed in water) and depressed. His life is not as interesting as his movies, but then again how could it be, considering that the director himself is A-list, one of the great living filmmakers of our time.

Nonetheless Almodóvar believes that a selective memoir could involve an audience. We see Salvador’s life divided into three periods: the 1960s as a nine-year-old boy; the 1980s, which is given the least amount of celluloid, where he has had an affair with Federico (Leonardo Sbaraglia); and the current year when the suffering filmmaker depends on the care of his assistant Mercedes (Nora Navas). The narrative is not chronological. The man in the current year lives in a large house, cabinet painted bright red, filled with paintings that made one of his visitors think he was in a museum. Salvador frequently drifts off dreaming of what he may consider the idyllic time of his life, when though poor and living in a cave, he is excited by reading and gets his first sexual fantasy that is so strong that it knocks him off his feet.

This early segment is the most interesting unless you have been going to a series of doctors yourself trying to get a diagnosis that nobody can give you, and you relate strongly to the pain that Salva feels. The nine-year-old future filmmaker (Asier Flores) living with his patient mother Jacinta (Penélope Cruz) in a cave—not considered bad digs by the people of the village—is obviously a prodigy, playing piano, lead singer in the church choir where comic touches feature a few boys with atrocious voices, and teaching an illiterate painter Eduardo (César Vicente) to read. When Eduardo washes himself, barely covered by a towel, Salva faints with the intensity of the feeling and, yes folks, your nine-year-old has sexual feelings as well. His mother senses the attraction and hides a sensual painting that Eduardo does of her son.

Two men capture Salvador’s attention in the present years. Federico, with whom Salva had a love affair in the eighties, visits the ailing filmmaker after decades of separation. In an emotional scene they reminisce about those good years and part with a long kiss. And Alberto (Asier Etxeandia), an actor who visits, having appeared in a Salvador’s eighties picture and has not spoken with his director after being insulted by him thirty-two years back. He introduces Salvador to heroin—which for the movie audience supplies the beauty of Salva’s dreams of his childhood. Having not acted in years and feeling as useless as Salvador, Alberto finds purpose in delivering a monologue on the stage, witnessed by Salvador’s former lover Federico.

Though this is arty theater, there is nothing difficult to follow in case you happen upon the film and as a lover of commercial movies may never have heard of Almodóvar. It approaching the stereotypical French style by being talky, and it’s good talk, much delivered with hallucinatory images in Salvador’s mind. As in all of the director’s films, we are treated to his basic themes of desire, passion, family and identity all against bright, colorful backgrounds. If you’re over 60, you have likely been exposed to the vicissitudes of life: the pain that tags along with the glory. If a teen, you recall the desires of a young person often unfulfilled because of innocence. And parts of the film may reflect the melodrama that accompanies you during the most exciting, yet anxiety-producing moments.

113 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B+

NEVER AGAIN IS NOW – movie review

NEVER AGAIN IS NOW
Ph.D. Productions/Blaze Documentary
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Evelyn Markus
Screenwriter: Evelyn Markus
Cast: Evelyn Markus, Rosa Zeegers, Ben Shapiro, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Qanta Ahmed, Jozias van Aartsen
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 9/26/19
Opens: October 23, 2019

Never Again Is Now Button

This marvelous film has been released under the radar

“Never Again is Now” is expertly edited to combine archival films of Hitler and the war with life in Europe today. After the racist attacks and ultimately the deaths of six millions Jews 1941-45, the slogan “Never Again” was heard throughout the world. Those of us who are Jews and people who have moral firmness in their spines thought that we had heard the last of atrocities like those culminating seven decades ago.

Looking now at Europe, we may find it difficult to imagine that France has been the locale of terrible beatings and bombings against Jewish sites, but it’s even more surprising that anti-Semitic attacks are taking place in the Netherlands, particularly in Amsterdam and the Hague. Most of the violence comes from the growing Muslim populations in Europe, but the traditional citizens of sites like Amsterdam and Paris have sometimes caught the disease. We Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom, raining criticism of his country’s Muslims. We generally believe that far right politicians in Europe are themselves anti-Semitic, but in this case he receives a filmed audience from the Jewish director.

The most important concept emerging from the film is from Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Muslim born in Somalia who had left for Europe and ultimately the United States. When interviewed by Evelyn Markus, the director, who asked whether anti-Semitic incidents would have occurred if there were no Israel, Hirsi Ali delivered a nuanced reply that anti-Semitic sentiment lies buried in some people, with Israel serving merely as an excuse to demonstrate. Hey, it’s not as though everything was peachy for the Jews before the creation of Israel. People have had a need for scapegoats long before the last two centuries and have found victims among minority groups like the Armenians in Turkey, the Rohinga in Myanmar, the Romani in Europe, the Coptic Christians in Egypt, and the Hutus against the Tutsis in Rwanda—among so many others.

Personalizing the film, Evelyn Markus spoke of her parents’ surviving the Holocaust, her mother liberated while on a cattle car heading to a death camp in Eastern Germany. Markus, who notes that she is not only Jewish but gay (her partner, Rosa Zeegers, enjoys a large role, sharing a home with the director for decades.) The two are dismayed that often violent demonstrations against Jews—not Zionists, necessarily, not Israelis, but diaspora Jews—have made their former country unrecognizable thanks to loud demonstrations by Muslims who shout “Kill the Jews wherever they live.” Even non-Jews are marked for assassination if they are critical of Islam. Theo Van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker critical of Islam in a short doc, was assassinated: stabbed by a jihadist with an anti-Semitic note stuck to his chest. Zeegers, who had passed by a pro-Palestinian demonstration, could scarcely believe the calls of “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas,” a shout which by the way was duplicated even in football stadiums by the visiting teams.

Still it’s refreshing to hear that most Muslims living in Europe and the U.S. go about their business and are not political, and that a few, like the wonderful Ayaan Hirsi Ali, note that violent demonstrators are not in the spirit of Islam, that they are caused by political Islamists. To prove a point—and without extra dialogue—Markus films a sign during a demonstration that calls for Sharia in the Netherlands! So: that’s what you get when you allow too many political Islamists into your country. Instead of gratitude, they would like to overthrow the government, cover women, maybe even ban music, movies, and “Western” culture. It’s almost enough to turn people on the left political spectrum to become conservative.

By quoting the anti-Nazi Dietrich Bonhoeffer “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil,” Markus appears to want us to speak up against, well, evil. People are speaking up, but that does not seem to cut much ice in Europe. At least here in the U.S. where Jews can still walk with kipot on heads, even tallit on their bodies, we could use an administration in D.C. that does not consider the neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville to be “fine people.”

This documentary is vivid, it’s riveting, even mesmerizing. It’s a call to action but it does not really tell us what we can do to end the growing divisions in our society since free speech makes the situation even worse. Can anyone?

90 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – A
Acting – A-
Technical – A-
Overall – A-

THE DEATH OF DICK LONG – movie review

THE DEATH OF DICK LONG
A24
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Daniel Scheinert
Screenwriter: Billy Chew
Cast: Michael Abbott Jr., Virginia Newcomb, Andre Hyland, Sarah Baker, Jess Weixler
Screened at: Technicolor, NYC, 9/3/19
Opens: September 27, 2019

The Death of Dick Long Poster

“The Death of Dick Long” was filmed on location in Alabama but you’ve got to wonder whether the production team needed to smuggle copies of the film out in the middle of the night. The characters on the screen may be the kind that Hillary once called “a basket of deplorables,” and yep, they are indeed dumb enough to vote for Trump. And to vote for him again in 2020. That may be why they make for the amusement of people in the movie audience who like to see people below themselves in intelligence. You’re not surprised to find that director Daniel Scheinert co-helmed “Swiss Army Man” about a fellow stranded on a desert who befriends a dead body, making a surreal journey to get home. “The Death of Dick Long” likewise involves a dead body, a man who thought he had two friends, but they dumped him, bloody and unconscious, on the street. They never heard that friends don’t let friends dump them at the door of a hospital and run away.

Billy Chew’s script finds Zeke Olsen (Michael Abbott Jr.), Earl Wyeth (Andre Hyland) and Dick Long (played by the director) practicing classical rock in Zeke’s garage. Nothing far out there. But when high as kites they cross to a barn, they do so not to continue practicing. What they now seek is something a lot weirder. We’re kept wondering what could they possibly be doing that’s more exciting to them than their music. All is revealed in a conclusion that knocks the lid off even what some of us think that people in the Alabama of broken-down shacks and trailers are up to.

All the events take place in a single day, one that they will remember for the rest of their lives—provided that they don’t go ahead to do stuff that would get them into more of a panic. Zeke and Earl do not have criminal minds, but they are akin to the types of petty culprits with arrest records as long as the arm of the law. These are people who do not have enough equipment upstairs to get away with a single misdemeanor. The main problem facing them is that clothing and blood are soaking everything around them. They cannot remove the blood in their car so they sink the entire thing—except that the vehicle refuses to sink. Detergents have little effect on clothing, so they throw the clothes away in the woods right by where they live. While Dick’s wife Jane (Jess Weixler) wonders where her husband is, she is sure that he is having an affair—which in a way he is. Instead of burning Dick’s wallet, Zeke hands it over to Sheriff Dudley (Sarah Baker), who is excited that her boss, Sheriff Spenser (Janelle Cochrane) is assigning the case of her for apparently the first time. You wonder how these two female officers—one of them bringing to mind the indelible character of Marge Gunderson from the Coen brothers’ 1996 movie “Fargo—could be trusted to give a parking ticket to a vehicle left out on the road.

If the case is to be solved, the hero would be Zeke’s small daughter Cynthia Olsen (Poppy Cunningham) whose loose tongue arouses the suspicions of Zeke’s wife Lydia (Virginia Newcomb) and the sheriffs. Whether the movie humanizes the backwater folks or allows us to feel some compassion for their limitations depends on how you see them. At the very least, “The Death of Dick Long”—the title with an obvious double-entendre—is an indie-ish treat for the right audience. Or a downright irritating story that will make you pine for the loss of shows like “I Love Lucy.”

100 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B
Technical – B
Overall – B