Milwaukee, Minnesota
US, 2002. Dir. Allan Mindel
6/14 9:30p Pacific Place
6/15 1:45p Egyptian

Winter’s white blankets Wisconsin. A twenty-something idiot-savant (Troy Garrity) lives at home with his brow-beating mother, earning large sums as an ice-fishing champion. A grifter thinks she has him on the line, but first one, then another man claims to be the boy’s father in the wake of his mother’s death. Twists drift like snowbanks in this taut film noir.

I giggled with delight and tension throughout the film. It delivered everything I want from a film noir, despite its’ happy ending. The film’s knowledgeable play with the rules of the genre extends even to the final fade – to white, not black.

While Garrity’s Adam Sandler impression mystifies, I readily adapted to it. The film’s well-cast and acted, and the hypersaturated, slightly blown-out look of the film both uses apparent natural light in homage to 1970’s thrillers and presents an artificial, pulpy green and yellow palette, implying age.

Garrity, the lead actor, is the son of Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden. The best known actors in the film are Randy Quaid, portraying a wonderfully reptilian “traveling salesman” (sporting a rust turtleneck, a splotchy bottle tan, and a wide-lapeled reddish-tan belted car-coat) and Bruce Dern, as an unkempt older copy shop owner.

I loved the production design of the film.

I make reference to Garrity’s Adam Sandler impersonation. He plays the ice-angler, literally, as if Adam Sandler were doing an impression of Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man (Jim Flanagan take note). It’s weird, and what mystifies about it is why the actor would chose to adopt such a derivative seeming mode for the performance. I can’t imagine that it wasn’t considered and then accepted as an aspect of the film that would be discussed upon release. Perhaps the filmmakers simply decided it wouldn’t detract from the rest of the film.

If that’s the case, it was a good call from my perspective. While the film doesn’t top Red Rock West for contemporary noir, it’s close, and this is something of an accomplishment when one considers the extent to which Red Rock relied on action sequences to get the adrenaline pumping – Milwaukee, Minnesota eschews action nearly entirely, relying on plot and dialog to work one up into that pleasurable tizzy.

(I find it interesting to note that both this film and – just maybe – Gordon’s King of the Ants employ brain dysfunction as a character element. Memento sure had an impact in funding choices, looks like.)