Sunday, March 22, 2015

Buzzard

One of the things you look for when you visit theaters in the triple-digits in a year is different. So it came to pass that when this little film Buzzard popped up, we picked it for a weeknight outing.

And it is definitely different.

It's almost Napoleon Dynamite-ish in its low-key humor, low-key characters and overall low ambitions, but it turns dark and loses its focus in the third act, which makes for a, well, different experience. One that is interesting to be sure—mesmerizing at points, even—but not exactly great.

Our protagonist is Marty Jackitansky (Russian, not Polish), slacker extraordinaire, who "works" at a bank, taking three hour lunch breaks and complaining about what a crappy job it is. He actually never works. The closest he comes is when his boss gives him a stack of checks that never made it to their intended recipients, with the assignment to find those people and their correct addresses.

After a few abortive attempts to connect with these people, he lights on a brilliant idea: What if, instead mailing the checks to the payees, he just deposits them in his own account?

Up until that point, we have a weird, begrudging respect for Marty, as he engages in his hobby in taking advantage of The System. Like, he closes down his bank account so that he can re-open it and get the $50 promotion. (And it may not have been the first time he's done this.) He does this unapologetically in front of the account manager, while even informing him that he's on the third hour of his lunch at another branch of the same bank.

His hobby, meanwhile, is calling up the companies that make the food products he likes and telling them he received bad product so that they'll send him coupons for replacements.

But when he decides to deposit the checks, we realize Marty isn't really so much brash as he is stupid. Ultimately, he risks trouble with the law for what amounts to, maybe a month's worth of paychecks (at a job he barely has to show up for).

When he realizes he's made a mistake, he becomes paranoid. He crashes at his friend's place. (I can't swear to it but it looked like he had a comic book collection that might have been worth a lot more than the checks, too, as well as some collector's edition Nightmare on Elm Street posters.) But even there, he's sure the cops are hunting him down.

So, he's both too dim to realize he might get in trouble for the checks, and to realize the cops aren't going to set out a dragnet for a couple of $50 checks.

The movie probably reaches its height, dramatically speaking, when he goes out—sure that the cops are watching him—and ends up getting ripped off by a convenience store clerk, whom he's helpless against because he's on the lam!

From there, the movie wanders, as Marty wanders. He heads to Detroit (his home?), at each step consuming all the resources available to him and never thinking about the next step on his journey. And the further along he goes, the more apparent it is that he is dumb. He's so fixated on these checks that as he commits more and more grievous crimes along the way, they never register with him.

The final scene commits a possibly unforgivable crime of magical realism. OK, that's just my way of saying "I didn't get it." But there's a not-possible image and I can't tell if it's supposed to be metaphorical, a reflection of Marty's paranoia, or just a "Well, we got end it somehow" thing.

Anyway, interesting, which is not nothing. Not for everyone, especially people who aren't into that low-key flat-affect sort of comedy/drama. Joshua Burge is utterly convincing as Marty. Writer/director Joshua Potrykus is equally convincing as his dweebish pal.

I'm guessing the movie was meant to take place in Low-Budget-1990. Low-Budget-1990 is like regular 1990 in that it has all the trappings of 1990, like no cell phones, Nintendo Power Gloves, big CRTs and Freddy Krueger, but no one going around trying to actually create 1990 in terms of automobiles, cityscapes, or (say) tearing off posters of The Matrix that are on the wall.

In fact, on reflection, it almost seems like a juvenile fantasy. The Nintendo Power Glove refashioned in a Krueger-esque way. The signing over of checks, which is the sort of thing you'd do with your mom when your grandma wrote you a check when you didn't have a bank account. The Bugles on the treadmill. (Heh.)

Buzzard just kind of takes that to the logical conclusion parents struggle to keep their kids away from.

Anyway, we liked it. Looking forward to more from Mr. Potrykus.

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