Milwaukee, Minnesota

2005, Movie, R, 95 mins


Credits like "Alison Folland's Hair Color by Hubert Cartier at Frederic Fekkai" tell you you're in the presence of an independent film on which meticulous attention was paid to the way things look. If that same awareness of detail had been extended to story and characterization, this off-kilter tale of a mentally challenged fisherman and the bottom feeders who want his money might be an interesting slice of frozen life in the white-on-white Midwest. But instead it's all posturing and mannerisms, driven by the grating voice-over of boy-man Albert Burroughs (Troy Garity, who sounds disconcertingly like Adam Sandler imitating a dummy). Albert has spent his whole life in frigid Milwaukee, Wis., firmly under the thumb of his domineering mother, Edna (Debra Monk); in the name of maternal love, Edna has systematically undermined Albert's confidence, making him utterly dependent and so unworldly that Illinois seems as impossibly distant as Kathmandu. Albert's joy in life is ice fishing, for which he has a rare facility. He can hear the fish whispering deep down in the chilly water, a gift that's earned him 17 trophies and a considerable bundle of cash. But Edna won't let him compete out of state — for his own good, of course — so he mostly stays close to home, fishing for fun and working for copy-shop owner Sean McNally (Bruce Dern), whose purportedly inexplicable devotion to Albert's well-being is, in fact, transparently easy to figure out. Albert's predictable existence is shattered when Edna is killed by a hit-and-run driver, an event that coincides with the arrival of three strangers. "Traveling salesman" Jerry James (Randy Quaid), an oily scam artist, hopes to separate Albert from his money by pretending to be the long-lost father Edna claimed was dead. White-trash trollop Tuey Stites (Alison Folland, affecting a tough-tootsie accent no more convincing than Garity's) has heard that "retarded people have enormous penises" and figures to get Albert's stash through her feminine wiles. She's traveling with her hypochondriac brother Stan (Hank Harris) — he's the one who thinks Milwaukee is in Minnesota — who may or may not have ideas of his own. A riot of artfully grungy hotel rooms, sleazy costumes and sordid behavior, Allan Mindel's directing debut gives off the smug air of hipsters at play, making it hard to care what happens to any of its lost souls and inept opportunists. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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