If I had to sum up this movie in one word, it would be “unforgettable.” If I was allowed the verbosity of two words, my description would be “fucked up.” Still, I’ve seen it enough times that there is clearly something that keeps me coming back.
Gummo takes place in a tornado damaged town in Ohio. It’s not clear what Xenia was like before the tornado hit, but as the movie goes on, you can’t help but wonder if the world would be a better place if it had been destroyed completely.
Parts of the film were shot in real homes (admittedly not nearly as shocking today as they were pre-Hoarders when this movie came out), and many of the “actors” were cast from a local Burger King. The only recognizable star is Chloe Sevigny, but she’s talented enough that her scenes don’t snap you out of the feeling that you’re watching a freaky, sad documentary.
Furthering the documentary feel of this film, is the fact that there is no real beginning or end, and aside from the underlying sense of poverty woven throughout, there doesn’t always seem to be a common thread. Things happen, and then other things happen, just as they do in life. The scenes come together in a dreamlike way which leaves you waiting for a coup de grace that never comes.
Gummo isn’t for everybody, and maybe it isn’t for anybody. There is fighting, prostitution, animal cruelty, drug use, vermin, and theft. It’s disturbing, and once you’ve seen it, it can’t be unseen. It’s a haunting glimpse into into a seedier subsect of society than most of us will ever witness, but if we look hard enough, we might see reflections of ourselves in these characters. In the simple pleasures of clean socks or a chocolate bar--if we overlook that the clean socks were stolen from another boy’s bedroom while his grandmother lay comatose in the next room, and that the chocolate bar was enjoyed after being dropped in bathtub full of filthy water.
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