Wes Bentley, Scott Speedman, Taryn Manning, Greg Bryk, Matt Frewer / Fiction / English
Drug-crazed losers run wild, in a relentlessly hilarious, seriously offbeat caper - opening night at this year's Slamdance Film Festival.
The classification “cult movie” has been much abused of late as a marketing device that comes into play long before the formation of any true cult is possible. Executives formulating a promotional strategy don’t really count as a groundswell of underground acclaim. The possibility of a genuine cult film might just have died when the creepily self-aware action comedy Snakes on a Plane was viral-marketed through blogs and fansites in a campaign that disguised itself as a grassroots movement. One hesitates, therefore, to identify cultish trappings in any new release; it’s a label that now seems cynical by definition.
So let’s not say that Weirdsville is cultish, culty, or a cult-in-waiting. Let’s note, instead, that it’s fired by an intoxicating, rebellious energy; that it anchors its wild imagery in a bedrock of surprisingly heartfelt emotion; and that it combines the delirious, drug-infused black humour of Trainspotting with the sharp-edged smarts of the best American teen comedy (in which director Allan Moyle has a notable pedigree, having directed Times Square, Pump Up the Volume and Empire Records). If that sounds culty, well – time will tell.
Wes Bentley – whose career stalled oddly after a much-praised breakout appearance in American Beauty – proves himself a dynamic lead and a natural comedian in the role of Royce, a hapless crystal meth addict who is experiencing increasing difficulties in holding his life together. Going out with Mattie (Taryn Manning), a fellow addict and part-time hooker, doesn’t help much. Royce’s partner in crime is Dexter (Scott Speedman), who’s no less lost, but who is beginning to formulate a plan to go straight.
First step is to sort out a sizeable debt to a scary drug dealer, which Royce and Dexter agree to clear by selling some stock on his behalf. That means Royce, Dexter and Mattie having the stuff in their possession, however. And self-discipline is hardly their collective strong point.
Brilliantly constructed by screenwriter Willem Wennekers, and photographed by Adam Swica with a suitably hallucinogenic vibrancy, Weirdsville goes on to lead its two anti-heroes on a merry dance, heaping trouble on trouble at every turn. It’s unashamedly silly at points (and you do kind of wish that the otherwise surefooted Wennekers hadn’t resorted to using dressed-up dwarves for comic effect), but Bentley and Speedman never waver in their sincerity: they might know they’re in a comedy, but their straight-faced, sweetly baffled characters certainly don’t. It’s this guileless quality that distinguishes Weirdsville from more knowingly cultish works. The result is a unrestrained, taboo-rupturing buddy movie, with an unexpectedly sweet aftertaste.
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