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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

 

Putty Hill
Directed by Matt Porterfield
Cinema Guild Not Rated DVD/VHS Documentary
02/11

There are very few American movies being made about working-class people. This creative amalgamation of a drama and a documentary is set in a suburb of Baltimore that despite its greenery and woods registers on the senses as a slum. Family and friends in the community have come to town for the funeral of Cory, a twenty-something who died of an overdose. All we see of him is a picture at his memorial service. Nor do we see the director, Matt Porterfield, whose voice comes out of nowhere asking probing questions of the characters about their family, feelings about funerals, and relationship to Cory.

The dead boy's sister, Zoe (Zoe Vance), wasn't very close to him. She and some other youth end up down by a river, which seems to be a popular spot to drink beer and smoke cigarettes. In another scene, four girl friends put on their swim suits and cool off in a swimming pool. Meanwhile, Cory's uncle is a tattoo artist who was in prison for second degree murder. His daughter, Jenny (Sky Ferreira) is visiting and has an emotional melt-down on how his presence disgusts her. Others interviewed include Cory's roommate from prison, now out and restarting his life, and a skate-board enthusiast who savors the creativity of all who love the sport.

Porterfield has said, "I celebrate the daily life of characters considered too average to warrant screen time in popular, Hollywood cinema." Only Sky Ferreira is an actor; the others are non-professional residents of Baltimore. For the memorial service, all of the characters who have been interviewed show up in a crowded space with a karaoke emcee seated at a table in front of them. Family members and others who feel so inclined sing a song and then a few express their feelings of loss for Cory. But the words are washed away by pitchers of beer and dancing.

Two of the girls at the memorial service decide to visit Cory's house that night and are appalled at what a dump it is. They can't believe how little stuff he has and the emptiness of the place. It is a sad commentary on a young, lonely, and desperate young man's lost life.

 

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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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