Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Milwaukee, Minnesota (2003)

If you approach Allan Mindel's Milwaukee, Minnesota (2003) as part archetypal fairy tale, part darkly comic modern "heartland" story, you can relax into it without qualm. Definitely this is true: twelve years since its release and three viewings down the pike, I continue to enjoy it -- a small independent film that holds up well. 

Besides the handful of actors (all with something to recommend in their performances), there are striking visual contrasts (as in the image above) within the purview of Bernd Heinl, director of photography, and for the ears, there's a cool wintry soundtrack by Michael Convertino and Robert Muzingo (even a little backwards-looping music). 
Milwaukee, Minnesota centers around Albert (last name Burroughs, no less, played by Tory Garity, whose mother is no less than Jane Fonda), a savant of some kind, wildly successful at winning ice fishing contests while living with his control-freak mother. 

Who, you may ask, is Albert's father? There's a little mystery for you right off the bat. 
Why, suddenly, does Jerry James, a roving incarnation of evil (banality and all) -- arriving from Chicago as if escaped from a parallel Coen brothers' universe, convincingly played by Randy Quaid -- roll into town?  
Why on earth is the movie called Milwaukee, Minnesota, and who is Mr. McNally (played aptly by Bruce Dern) -- as in the publisher of maps?

Why is Gary (Josh Brolin) wearing modified women's undergarments? What exactly is Gary's connection to "the Lady" (played by Holly Woodlawn, as in "Holly came from Miami F-L-A / Hitch-hiked her way across the U.S.A.")?

What about grifter Tuey (Alison Folland) and her hypochondriac brother Stan (Hank Harris)?  Hint: how Tuey and Albert respond to one another is a key element in the film.

Milwaukee, Minnesota, in its overall feel, reminds me of Wim Wenders' 1977 film Der Amerikanische Freund / The American Friend (that one starring Dennis Hopper and Bruno Ganz). And at certain times, Troy Garity's Albert strongly resembles Dustin Hoffman's Benjamin Braddock, protagonist in The Graduate (1967). In addition to a certain physical resemblance, Hoffman was ten years older than his character was supposed to be at the time of filming, and both actors were about thirty years old when playing their respective roles -- in both cases they are memorable and a little off-kilter.
Today's Rune: Harvest.


Tom Sarmo said...

Thanks for this--somehow missed this one!

Charles Gramlich said...

I've always liked Bruce Dern so I need to try and see this.

the walking man said...

Where do you come up with these obscure films. Certainly not at Wal*Mart.

jodi said...

Erik-yeah.. What Walking Man said!

Erik Donald France said...

Thanks, y'all,for the comments ~!

Two easy sources for most of these films: Netflix; or miscellaneous online alternatives like Amazon. These sources use logarithms based on your interests to offer new suggestions and links. Plus word of mouth . . . It's all good ~!

E von F