Sunday, March 18, 2018

SXSW with Abe: The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter

I’m so excited to be attending the film festival at South by Southwest for the first time, and I’ll be posting reviews throughout the week as I see as many movies as possible!

The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter
Directed by Jody Hill
Narrative Spotlight

There is a certain type of filmmaking that is immediately recognizable as unintentionally campy and over-the-top, and the fact that those acting in it have no idea makes it all the more entertaining. Dated production values and an inauthentic sense of drama can contribute, and usually these kinds of films fall into “so bad it’s good” territory. Featuring clips of such fare in a fictional film about the people who make it and think it’s great is a strong recipe for hilarity, with the material exaggerated all the more to show just how out of touch with reality its creators truly are.

Buck Ferguson (Josh Brolin) is an adventurer who makes videos of his exploits with the help of his loyal cameraman Don (Danny McBride). Divorced from his wife and threatened by her newfound relationship with another man, Buck seeks to forge an unbreakable bond with his young son Jaden (Montana Jordan) by taking him on a trip to kill his first deer, which will also double as footage for the latest episode of his series. Jaden’s lack of interest and preoccupation with his phone and his girlfriend prove troublesome in the woods after Buck spots a non-typical deer, latching onto it as the ultimate prize that Jaden could take home on his first attempt.

This film comes from writer-director Jody Hill, whose latest work has been on the television shows “Vice Principals” and “Eastbound and Down,” both starring McBride. Anyone who has seen those will be ready for the experience that is this film, which fortunately serves as a tremendous improvement over Hill’s last movie, “Observe and Report.” Though its characters remain blissfully unaware of the way the world works and how they are perceived, this film knows exactly what it is. Hill wisely chooses to temper his characters, especially McBride’s, more than usual, still making them absurd enough to provide a great time for audiences.

Brolin, who earned an Oscar nomination ago for “Milk,” seems to be having a blast playing comic characters who are funny because of how seriously they take themselves, doing so effectively in “Inherent Vice” and now here as the ultimate manly hunter who isn’t nearly as tough as he looks. McBride, less vulgar and angry than he usually is, does a great job in a supporting role, and Jordan is particularly fantastic as a poor fit for his father’s enthusiasm, complaining frequently of back pain and a simple desire not to try hard. This film may be ridiculous, but it has a marvelous sense of how far to take each scene to the utmost effect.


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