It’s practically a fetish among independent filmmakers: crafting gritty tales centering on our nation’s economically challenged folks, the lunch-pail grunts and minimum-wage workers who can barely keep their eyeballs—much less their heads—above water. There’s a difference between chronicling the underclass who’ve fallen between the American dream’s cracks, of course, and wallowing in its misery, and it’s easy to see which category writer-director Laurie Collyer’s melodrama falls into. Melissa (Naomi Watts) works the counter at the local gas-and-sip; her husband, Richie (Matt Dillon), is a paraplegic with a drinking problem. Creepy ex-boyfriends, an unplanned bun in the oven and the sheer grind of trying to make ends meet with next to nothing is wearing the couple down. Can their love survive?
Collyer’s debut, Sherrybaby (2006), dealt with similarly down-and-out folks, and proved she knew how to work with actors. Her follow-up, however, suggests that she’s just as susceptible to creating borderline poverty porn as her indiewood peers. The one real takeaway here is not that things are tough all over, or that movie stars equate slumming with authenticity; it’s that no actor should be asked to do a sexy dance to Crazy Town’s “Butterfly.” Ever.
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