Putty Hill

Movies, Drama
2 out of 5 stars
Putty Hill

A working-class neighborhood in South Baltimore, Putty Hill is home to a variety of weekend-warrior paintball enthusiasts, ex-con tattoo artists, long-haired metalheads and folks who scrape by one day at a time. It's also the scene of a recent teen drug-overdose fatality---undoubtedly not the Hill's first, probably not its last---that's left the community quietly reeling. Local friends and family, as well as an out-of-town relative (Ferreira) back for the funeral, numbingly go about their business; an offscreen character (voiced by the film's director, Matt Porterfield) occasionally asks them questions. A wake ends in a raucous evening of karaoke. Then life, hardscrabble and sometimes hopeless, goes on.

You can see a lot of Cassavetes and Terrence Malick in Porterfield's style, in which an improvisational looseness brushes up against moody, rural-poetic flourishes. What you won't get, however, is much insight into class, grief, urban life or who these people are. Thankfully, this indie filmmaker isn't one for dogmatic message-mongering, but he's not too keen on structure or meaning, either; it's as if go-nowhere observationalism alone somehow equals "reality" and a higher truth. (Not quite.) Occasional moments, such as an extended inking sequence set to Auto-Tuned R&B, have a mesmerizing effect, only to meander into open-ended messiness. Porterfield has proved he can do grit and atmosphere. Should the young director ever decide to channel this talent into storytelling with purpose and a point, he might be someone to watch out for.

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By: David Fear


Release details

Release date: Friday February 18 2011
Duration: 87 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Matthew Porterfield
Screenwriter: Matthew Porterfield
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